The Empire State Building lit it’s tower to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in September. More than a couple of people were not psyched. Here’s a slideshow and story.
By Azriel James Relph
Peng Keyu, consul general of the People’s Republic of China, smiled as he flipped a giant switch, lighting up the tower of a small model of the Empire State Building in red and yellow, the colors of his country. Meanwhile, angry sounds trickled in from the streets through revolving doors, echoing off of the giant marble ceiling of the actual Empire State Building’s art deco lobby where the ceremony was taking place that autumn morning.
“No to China’s empire! Free Tibet now!” chanted dozens of voices on Fifth Avenue in front of the lobby.
The Empire State Building celebrated the 60th anniversary of the PRC by lighting its tower in red and yellow, a move that angered some students, exiles and activists who lined up in front of the building, waving Tibetan flags and holding up signs listing China’s human rights abuses during the ceremony.
“This is really a demonstration of friendship between our two peoples,” said Keyu inside at a press conference for the lighting.
Out on the street, Tenzin Tsundue, 34, a prominent Tibetan activist visiting the U.S. on a speaking tour said, “This is shameful for New York City to allow the most prestigious building to be used as propaganda to celebrate the foundation of the People’s Republic of China.”
Tsundue’s parents fled Tibet for India in the 1960s. In 1997, he entered Tibet illegally and was imprisoned for three months. He is well known for his activism, writing and signature red bandana. Elle to named him one of ‘India’s 50 Most Stylish People’ in 2002.
“The PRC has created so much death, pain and suffering to so many people,” Tsundue said. He listed the recent clashes with Tibetan monks, Chinese Muslims, and followers of the Falun Gong religion, and said, “It’s very fresh in our memories.”
Rabgyal Kunchok, 31, grew up in the Tibetan village of Tapo, but moved to New York City a year and a half ago. He held up a sign reading “NY Loves Liberty. Shame on ESB.”
“In Tibet people are still poor and suffering,” said Kunchok. “And not only in Tibet, but all Chinese people are suffering. The government says ‘We are always doing good,’ but everything is not really good.”
Tenzin Dorjee, 29, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, organized the protest. “By giving a tribute to the PRC on this day we are giving them the wrong message: that everything they’ve done is acceptable,” He said.
Interviews with Consul General Keyu were granted only to members of the Chinese press, but during the press conference he said, “We work together for a brighter future of U.S. – Sino relations, and a peaceful world.”
Outside, Tsundue pondered why The Empire State Building would celebrate something so controversial. “I’m sure it is mostly business motivated to allow that,” he said, “but it is nothing more than the prostitution of the dignity and liberty that this city stands for.”