Building owner David Lin stands proudly in front of the mural promoting independence for Tibet and Taiwan. (Photo/Corvallis Gazette-Times/Andy Cripe)
DHARAMSHALA, September 11: A mural depicting images of Tibetans self-immolating and monks being beaten by Chinese riot police in a small US city has generated quite a media hype, courtesy China.
The 10-foot-by-100-foot mural painted by Taiwanese-born artist Chao Tsung-song and commissioned by property owner David Lin, on a brick wall in Corvallis, Oregon started drawing attention after China raised objections at the work, in written as well as in person, with local authorities.
Two officials from the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco complained about the mural in writing to the mayor of Corvallis and also visited the town to lodge a formal complaint this month.
“There is only one China in the world and both Tibet and Taiwan are parts of China,” the letter to Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning dated August 8 from the Chinese Consulate General said.
“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.”
Manning ignored the warnings and instead gave a lecture to the Chinese consulate on America’s constitutional freedom of speech.
“As you are aware, the First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech in this country and this includes freedom of artistic expression,” Manning wrote.
Two weeks later, Vice Consul Zhang Hao and Deputy Consul General Song Ruan flew to Oregon and met with Manning and City Manager Jim Patterson.
The two reportedly expressed the concern of the Chinese government about the mural and called it “political propaganda.”
However, the mayor stuck to her earlier position of safeguarding America’s constitution and said that the city could not and would not order the painting’s removal.
The mural wall forms part of a restaurant, which has been named ‘Tibet House’ by its owner, Lin.
The painting depicts “images of Taiwan as a bulwark of freedom,” Chinese riot police beating Tibetan demonstrators, and Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.
Since 2009, an ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet has witnessed 51 Tibetans set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai lama.
Lin, a strong supporter of a free Tibet and an independent Taiwan, told reporters that he was under a “lot of pressure” to take down the mural, but clarified that he has “no plans to do anything of the sort.”