PORTLAND, Ore.—Portland Mayor Sam Adams has issued a "Tibet Awareness Day” proclamation, despite pressure from Chinese communist authorities.
In response to pressure from China's officials, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard said on his blog: "We should not have to sacrifice our principles of free speech and religion to do business with China."
Every year on March 10, Tibetans around the world commemorate compatriots who have lost their lives in a struggle for freedom in Tibet. This year is the 51th anniversary of a revolt in the capital, Lhasa, known to Tibetans as Tibetan National Uprising Day. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1949, and China now refers to it as the Tibet Autonomous Region.
On March 8, the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco asked Portland to request that Commissioner Leonard and Mayor Adams rescind the proclamation and cancel the celebration scheduled for March 10.
Upon arrival at City Hall, Chinese regime representatives were met by about 100 Tibetan protesters, who chanted, “China out of Tibet!” One of the Tibetans, Dechen Bartso, said that “the Tibetans wanted to let the officials know that they cannot meddle with city business and engage in any arm-twisting tactics.”
While making his way through the crowd, one of the consular officials continuously took pictures of the protesters.
Prior to the officials’ arrival, Commissioner Leonard greeted the Tibetans and posed for pictures with them.
Leonard said that Chinese authorities asked the city to cancel the proclamation. They also wanted the city to issue a new proclamation honoring the People's Republic of China and not allow the Tibetans to mark the anniversary at City Hall on Wednesday.
Commissioner Leonard and Mayor Adams did not agree to the demands, and the Tibet commemoration happened on March 10 at City Hall as scheduled. After that, a march through downtown Portland to Pioneer Square was to close with a candlelight vigil.
Mrs. Namgyal Gyalnub, vice president of the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, said, "We are here to say to the Chinese Consulate that this is not China. This is America, where there is freedom of expression and human rights and also to request the city of Portland not to succumb to the pressure of the Chinese."
Commissioner Leonard said he would participate in the commemoration by hanging the Tibetan flag in his office.