Watch and marvel as the mayor of Corvallis displays more courage in defense of freedom of expression than plenty of national-level executives from around the world:
Citing “strong resentment from the local Chinese community,” the Chinese government has asked the city of Corvallis to force a Taiwanese-American businessman to remove a mural advocating independence for Taiwan and Tibet from his downtown building.
But city leaders say the mural violates no laws and its political message is protected under the U.S. Constitution.
In vivid colors, the painting depicts riot police beating Tibetan demonstrators, Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule and images of Taiwan as a bulwark of freedom.
In a letter dated Aug. 8, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco formally complained to Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning about the mural’s content and asked for her help in having it removed.
“There is only one China in the world,” the letter reads in part, “and both Tibet and Taiwan are parts of China.”
In a response dated Aug. 20, Manning expressed regret that the mural had caused concern but noted that local government has no authority to regulate art.
“As you are aware,” Manning’s letter reads, ‘the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution guarantees freedom of speech in this country, and this includes freedom of artistic expression.”
Two Chinese officials, Vice Consul Zhang Hao and Deputy Consul General Song Ruan, flew to Oregon this week to make their case in person. The two men met Tuesday in Corvallis with Manning and City Manager Jim Patterson.
“They expressed their concern and the concern of the Chinese government about the mural on Mr. Lin’s building,” Patterson said. “They viewed the message as political propaganda.”
Patterson said he and Manning agreed to convey those concerns to Lin but made it clear to the consular officials that the city could not and would not order the painting’s removal.
“We also had a conversation with them about the U.S. Constitution,” Patterson added.
President Obama avoided the Dalai Lama the first time he visited Washington during the Obama administration, and gave him a low-key meet the second time. Mayor Manning politely listened to Chinese complaints, then explained the US Constitution and sent the Chinese consuls packing. Wow.