Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan rights group calls on US Congress for support

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Chao Tsung-song shows a US newspaper report about the mural he painted in Corvallis, Oregon, in Changhua County on Sept. 4.

Photo: Yen Hung-chun, Taipei Times

Members of the US Congress are being asked to lodge a formal protest with the Chinese government over its efforts to have a large mural promoting Taiwan independence removed from a wall in the town of Corvallis, Oregon.

The Chinese consulate in San Francisco last week wrote to the mayor of Corvallis and sent two diplomats to see her in an attempt to censor the mural.

Now, the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) has contacted Oregon’s two senators and five Congressional representatives appealing for a counterattack.

“This action by the consulate general of the PRC is a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of the US and a blatant attempt to silence people with different views,” FAPA president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said in a letter sent on Monday to the legislators.

Kao wants them to express “deep concern” to the US Department of State and formalize a protest.

The letter explains that Taiwanese-American businessman David Lin (林銘新) had the 3m by 30m mural painted with images supporting “freedom, democracy and independence” for both Taiwan and Tibet.

The mural is located on a brick wall of a building owned by Lin.

“It has just come to our attention that on Aug. 8, the consulate general of the People’s Republic of China sent a strongly worded letter to Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning, urging her to take down the mural, and implying that economic ties between China and Oregon would suffer if the request was not honored,” Kao said in the letter.

“To her credit, Mayor Manning responded that the First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which includes freedom of artistic expression,” Kao added.

“We are concerned though that the Chinese government will use economic and other means to try to force their position,” he said.

In the meantime, Manning has received a number of letters from academics, social commentators and US citizens of Taiwanese descent supporting the mural and her stand against Beijing.

“Your shining example is what we wish more government officials and politicians across America would follow,” American Citizens for Taiwan director-general Brock Freeman said in a letter to Manning.

He thanked Manning for exposing “the Chinese government’s threats” and for supporting human rights and freedom of speech “bought with blood and tears.”

Another letter to Manning from Milo Thornberry — a seminary teacher in Taiwan in the 1960s and 1970s — praised her for not giving in to “Chinese bullying.”

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