By James Griffiths
In an hilariously ill-judged piece of diplomacy, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco recently attempted to pressure the Mayor of Corvallis, OR into forcibly removing a mural advocating independence for Tibet and Taiwan from the walls of a private business.
“There is only one China in the world,” the letter reads in part, “and both Tibet and Taiwan are parts of China.”
“To avoid our precious friendship from being tainted by so-called ‘Tibet independence’ and ‘Taiwan independence,’ we sincerely hope you can understand our concerns and adopt effective measures to stop the activities advocating ‘Tibet independence’ and ‘Taiwan independence’ in Corvallis,” the letter states.
It seems however that Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning and indeed, the entire population of Oregon, must be added to the long list of those who have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, as the request was refused on the grounds that American mayors don’t actually have the power to tell business owners what to paint on their walls.
“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, then flew to Oregon to make their case in person, because apparently Chinese consuls have nothing to do most of the time.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei has defended the consulate’s involvement in attempting to police what private American citizens can-and-can’t have on their walls:
“The Chinese diplomats have the responsibility of expounding on China’s position to the outside world and to other peoples in the world.”
The Global Times dug out a professor of American Studies at Fudan University to explain to its readers just how anyone could possibly take the consuls’ efforts the wrong way:
“It will be difficult to get the mural removed as many Western media outlets aggrandize the Dalai Lama and favor Taiwan and tend to portray the Chinese mainland as the ‘devil,'” said Xin, suggesting it’s difficult for many Westerners to get a clear and accurate understanding of the history of China and its regions.