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Sponsor of anti-China mural in U.S ignores Beijing's protests

2012/09/16 20:42:03

Corvallis, Oregon, Sept. 15 (CNA) A Taiwanese-American who commissioned a mural in Oregon that advocates independence for Tibet and Taiwan is standing firmly behind the work despite protests from Chinese authorities.

Although feeling pressure, David Lin told CNA recently that he has no intention of taking down his colorful 10-by-100-foot mural, which depicts Tibetan monks' self-immolation, a Tibetan monk being beaten by Chinese police, Taiwan's independence and images of Taiwan's scenery.

Lin, 65, said the mural, drawn by Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song, was meant to express his personal political opinions. It was installed on the facade of Lin's office building in downtown Corvallis in August.

The drawing immediately drew fire from Beijing. China's Consulate General in San Francisco sent a letter to Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning, dated Aug. 8, asking that the mural be taken down by city authorities.

China also sent two high-ranking diplomats to Corvallis to further pressure the city on the matter.

"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 said, according to a Sept. 10 Reuters report.

China considers Tibet part of its territory and Taiwan a breakaway province that should eventually be reunited, by force if necessary.

Multiple U.S. media reports said Manning replied in writing that the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, including freedom of artistic expression.

Lin said he has received support from the local community, and people from states as far away as Florida and expatriates from Taiwan and Hong Kong have visited the site in person to back him up.

U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, who represents the district in which Corvallis is located, blasted the Chinese diplomats' visit in a short speech on the House floor on Sept. 12.

He noted that the city's newspaper described the visit by the diplomats as a "shakedown" because the original letter hinted that it might be in Corvallis' best interests economically to cooperate with the request.

"I am shocked and appalled that apparently Chinese professional diplomats have failed to read the Constitution of the United States of America before traveling here to represent their country," he said in the speech.

"This represents the basis of our representative democracy, our freedom of speech and our rights, and it will not be bullied by China or any other overseas interest," he said.

The protest by Chinese officials was "way out of line," he told the Corvallis Gazette-Times in an interview.

Several civic groups, including the D.C.-based Formosa Association for Public Affairs, have urged Oregon's representatives in the Congress to lodge a formal protest against the Chinese officials' actions.

(By Yen Ling-ju and Jamie Wang)