NEWS- Flag flap: City Council gesture provokes superpower

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris showed his solidarity with Tibet on Tibet's National Uprising Day.

How does a world class city provoke a world class incident? It's starts with a town that doesn't let city limits keep it from weighing in on international issues: the war in Iraq, hate crimes against gays, and nuclear proliferation.


So, when the all-Democrat City Council voted February 19 to hoist the Tibetan flag over City Hall, it was merely business as usual in what conservative critics sometimes deride as the "People's Republic of Charlottesville."

 The People's Republic of China, however, was less amused.

"The City government sent a very wrong signal," said Xin Shen, the first secretary of that giant nation's embassy in Washington, on Rob Schilling's WINA radio show. In a February 29 email to the City Council. Xin went on to express "grave concerns" that such an action meddles in China's internal affairs, and he claimed that those Tibetans who aren't thrilled with China's presence in their country are a "small handful of splittists."

But Council carried through with the effort, and on March 10, the 49th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day, the colorful Tibetan flag was hoisted on City Hall and waved among the more than 60 supporters of Tibetan independence, including Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, one of the event's speakers.

Among the onlookers was former Councilor Schilling.

"I don't think the City has any business getting into this," says Schilling, a Republican. "I support Tibet, and I'm totally against oppressive China. But I think this should be done on private property. What flag are they going to fly next?"

Others, like last year's City Council candidate Peter Kleeman, saw it as an opportunity to learn about the Tibetan community. City Councilor Satyendra Huja was pleased to see the event take place in front of the Free Speech Monument.

Speakers like Khenpo Ngawang Dorjee from the Tashi Choeling Buddhist Center in Albemarle want to use the 2008 Olympics as an opportunity to pressure China and draw the world's attention to Tibet's plight of being invaded and occupied by its powerful neighbor. Dorjee was the fieriest speaker, even with his remarks translated from Tibetan.

He pointed to a flag with the Olympic symbol above a red field and compared it to the blood shed in Tiananmen Square when Chinese citizens sought greater freedom.

"Free Tibet," he shouted.

Organizer Tseyang, president of the Tibetan Association in Charlottesville, fled from Tibet with her family in 1963, and asked that her last name not be used because of fear of retribution against relatives still living there.

The United States flag fluttered on a table with small Tibetan flags. Much as Americans feel about their flag, "We Tibetans have the same feeling when we see [the Tibetan] flag," said Tseyang in a choked voice.

The gathering began with the singing of the Tibet national anthem, and ended with a Tibetan prayer that clearly moved some of those present. A woman carrying a Tibetan flag wiped a tear from her eye.



One of the many reasons that I love living in Charlottesville. When a gesture this small grabs the attention of the embassy of the People's Republic of China, I say, "well done!"

City Council should represent the politics and social conscience of its citizens; if it can manage to speak for me on a global level, all the better.

In the larger scheme of things, will all this grandstanding matter? Maybe the saying, "The wind blows, the dog barks and the caravan rolls on" is apt. All this grandstanding may give the politicos their 15 mins of fame. "Free Tibet"? What if China decides to host Afghans and Iraqis with their cries of "Free Afghanistan" or "Free Iraq" respectively? That wouldn't be so amusing now, would it? Talking about blood, wasn't the US build first on the blood of the First Nation (Red Indians), followed by the blood of the African slaves and then its own southern brethen? So, please, let's look in the mirror first and remove the log out of our eyes before we point out the speck of dirt in others. Maybe that will help make the world more peacful.

I think this is too awesome! We'll go to war if a country with oil gets invaded (i.e. Kuwait) but we do nothing when the only peaceful culture in the world is exterminated! I think every town in the US should fly the Tibetan flag right next to the American flag. Free Tibet!

This country needs more politians like Dave Norris! A politian that uses his office for the greater good, what a concept! Go Dave!

It amazes me that anyone could protest the hanging of the Tibetan flag. I bet these same critics were in full support of the Iraq war, to "liberate" that country. What about the cultural genocide in Tibet? Oh, that's right, China stocks our Walmarts, so we better not care about their dictatorial trangressions!

The Charlottesville City Council is about the only thing "American" I'm proud of these days. Keep up the good work.

lvs said:

City Council should represent the politics and social conscience of its citizens; if it can manage to speak for me on a global level, all the better.

I say Thats fine except how would you feel if they came out against abortion? Or they busted on the jews or catholics? Suppose they they gave an opinion saying the city of Charlottesville supports the KKK?


Fix the damn potholes and preach on your own soapbox.

Ives-I say AMEN again! You are right on-this issue.