Thursday, April 05, 2007

The story of an event & protest in Hollywood/L.A., 3/3/07

The Beijing Tourism Bureau sent out more than 500 people for a parade in Los Angeles to promote the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but encountered several hundred demonstrators protesting the event.

Hundreds of paraders versus hundreds of protestors

More than 500 performers came from Beijing. On the third day at noon they sang and danced on the Hollywood main road, welcoming people to Beijing to visit the Olympic Games and to experience Beijing. But the scene also had several hundred protesters holding various signs protesting the Chinese government's persecution of human rights. They demanded that there be freedom first, then hold the Olympics (Freedom Before Olympics).

The parade was held on the street in front of the Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood. A group of children dressed as prosperity dolls danced in their in-line skates and sang a welcome song composed for Los Angeles. Also, there were beautiful women dressed in Forbidden City clothing, flower drum team neatly lined up, stilts team teasing the audience, as well as different kinds of decorated floats and other performance groups. They also wished the audience a happy new year.

Mayor and council members welcome the visitors from afar

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Councilmember Dennis Zine, Los Angeles Visitors and Tourism Bureau officials delivered speeches welcoming the visiting groups and congratulating the Los Angeles residents on the lunar new year.

Villaraigosa visited Beijing last year and has promoted Los Angeles tourism there. Villaraigosa painted the eyes of the lion and opened the parade prologue. Mayor Villaraigosa said, "Los Angeles is [the] first American city where China established its tourism office. Beijing may choose any city to conduct the lunar calendar new year parade, but has chosen Los Angeles; I feel deeply honored."

The Beijing government's Assistant Deputy Secretary-General Wang Yunfeng said, "The Los Angeles city has twice successfully held Olympic Games, Beijing hopes to benefit from Los Angeles' experience, produce a high standard 2008 Olympic Games."

A face off with demonstrators

The parade attracted many tourists but also brought in a large number of demonstrators. They occupied the sidewalk opposite the grand stand. Some hoisted the Tibetan flag and shouted loudly "Give Tibet Freedom", some holding photos of sentenced reporter Ching Cheong, Shi Tao and blind attorney Chen Guangcheng demanding their immediate release. There were also several hundred Falun Gong supporters protesting the persecution of human rights, all crammed full on two sides of the sidewalks.

The organizer brought in four large-scale tourist buses, and dispatched their parade team members to stand along the roadside in an attempt to block the demonstrators. Several high decibel loudspeakers also loudly broadcast music. The demonstrators could only move their positions, lifting up high the protest signs, waiting for the music to stop and then call out their various slogans.

Falun Gong member Zhang Peixing said that two tall cloth banners were snatched by the people from Beijing. They have reported the incident to the police.

Complaints about Los Angeles' government

The American Visual Artists Guild representative Ann Lau said that they are protesting Los Angeles City Mayor using taxpayers' money to help China promote the Beijing Olympics. Ann Lau said that closing the streets, having police for security, promotion by the Los Angeles Visitors Bureau, are all using the resources of the taxpayers. She has already asked the Mayor's office for a response but has yet to receive a reply.

Ann Lau said that the Beijing Olympic Games is the same as the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, in providing propaganda for that country. China continues in its persecution of human rights, completely violating the basic Olympic spirit of respecting human dignity.

Los Angeles Councilmember Dennis Zine indicated that demonstrations in the US are very common; so long as it is lawful, all have the right to express their opinion. But Zine said that, "China is on the rise. [Los Angeles] maintaining firm economic, trade, tourist relations with China is very important. The mayor and I are very supportive."

Note: This report originally appeared at Voice of America. It was then translated into English and appeared at the web site of ITSN (International Tibet Support Network)'s 2008-Free Tibet campaign, The China Support Network further edited it to upgrade the English before placing it here.

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