David Lin, a Taiwanese-American businessman in Corvallis is standing for his free speech rights and he ain't backing down!
There's a mural on Lin’s building, painted by Taiwanese artist Chao
Tsung-song, that depicts Taiwan as a bastion of freedom and includes images
of violent repression in Tibet, with riot police beating demonstrators
and Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.
A diplomatic spat began Aug. 8 with a letter to Corvallis Mayor
Julie Manning from the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco,
complaining about the mural commissioned by Mr. Lin and asking for her help in having it taken down.
The letter implied that allowing the painting to remain might harm trade
relations between China and Oregon, while removing it might have
economic benefits for Corvallis. Manning wrote back that the city
had no power to regulate artistic expression and that the U.S.
Constitution protected political statements (something that the Chinese would have NO IDEA what that actually means). She repeated those
assertions in person on Sept. 4, when Vice Consul Zhang Hao and Deputy
Consul General Song Ruan traveled to Corvallis for a face-to-face
meeting with Manning and City Manager Jim Patterson. The flap
erupted into an international incident after the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported
on the exchange last week. The story quickly made the rounds of the
Internet and drew widespread attention from the world media.
Wednesday, members of Oregon’s congressional delegation stepped into the
fight. Rep. Peter DeFazio, whose district includes Corvallis, blasted
China in a speech on the House floor, and Sen. Jeff Merkley issued a
short statement applauding Manning and Lin for sticking to their guns.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has taken China’s ambassador to task over Chinese
efforts to get the mural removed from the building in
downtown Corvallis. In the strongest response yet from a U.S.
official, Oregon’s senior senator fired off a sternly worded letter on
Thursday chastising Ambassador Zhang Yesui for the actions of two
Chinese diplomats. The consular officers pressured the mayor of
Corvallis to force a building owner to take down the painting, which
advocates independence for Taiwan and Tibet. “I am writing to
express my deep displeasure and concern with these actions,” Wyden wrote
in his letter to Zhang, the highest-ranking Chinese official in the
United States. He called the Chinese tactics “a grave affront” and
went on to lecture Zhang on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free
expression, as well as freedom of religion and the press and the right
of peaceful assembly. “While these rights may not be respected in
China, they are values that all Americans hold dear,” Wyden noted. “Any
attempt by your government to suppress these rights is unacceptable and
must not be repeated.”
While China asserts sovereignty over both regions, Taiwan has its own
democratically elected leadership and Tibet maintains a
government-in-exile in India.
The mural on Lin’s building, painted
by Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song, depicts Taiwan as a bastion of
freedom and includes images of violent repression in Tibet, with riot
police beating demonstrators and Buddhist monks setting themselves on
fire to protest Chinese rule. According to Tibetan activists, some 50 monks have immolated themselves this year in escalating independence protests.
Lin said he worries about possible retaliation, he insists he will not
take the mural down and says he has received an outpouring of
encouragement from well-wishers. “The support is unbelievable right now,” he said. “People come to my door and hug me.”
I want to thank Sen. Wyden for remembering what makes America great and to Mr. Lin for his stand for what is right. This is America at it's finest!
Quotes taken from the Corvallis Gazette Times newspaper.