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Taiwan/US: John/Jane/Sharon/Yaning

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thorny issue prompts 'generic' statement from council

Oct 29, 2007 at 09:00 PM
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Staff Writer Pasadena Star News, Article Launched: 10/29/2007 11:11:37 PM PDT

PASADENA - A Catholic monk's withered arm, deformed from what was described as years of torture, only compounded the City Council's unease Monday night as it considered a response to wide-ranging complaints over China's participation in the 2008 Rose Parade.

Thrust into the spotlight by a local controversy that has grown into a referendum on China's suitability as Olympic host, the council resembled an international court as the dozens of speakers lined up to deliver testimony on the balance of that nation's past and current abuses.

Some were present to support the Beijing Olympic float, an idea years in the making with the help of the city's own Sister City Committee and Mayor Bill Bogaard, designed to celebrate the spirit of the Olympic Games.

Ultimately the council agreed to endorse a 60-year-old "universal declaration" of human rights from the United Nations to be sent to federal officials and all of Pasadena's sister cities, including one at the heart of the debate -- Xicheng, a Beijing district.

No action was taken regarding the float itself.

Float supporters were eclipsed by a vocal majority, from local residents to international human rights organizations, which used the phalanx of cameras and media coverage to declare China had broken its promises to clean up its act with respect to human rights.

"It's symbolic," said Bob McCloskey, a local labor union activist. "The Olympics are going to happen, but they made commitments to improve human rights and they haven't."

McCloskey added imprisonment and abuse of workers to the balance of religious persecution, trafficking in human body parts, complicity in abuses in Sudan and Burma, quashing dissent, jailing journalists and more.

In a striking piece of visual testimony, Peter Zhou Bangjiu held high his emaciated arm he said was the result of years of torture and abuse because he wouldn't comply with the Communist Party's directives about how he practiced Roman Catholicism.

Bogaard said he thoughtfully weighed calls for his recusal from the discussion but said he was confident in his ability to be fair. As for those critical of China's rights record, the mayor added he respected "their right to have those views" but again strenously avoided making any statements which could be perceived as critical of China. After the meeting, he again declined to comment on China's record.

First to speak was Kenneth Hardy, the chairman of the advisory board whose report was before the council. The council delivered high praise for the report but rejected most of its recommendations.

Making a pre-emptive move against the argument that the debate was too big or exceeded the bounds of the City Council, Hardy cited examples when the city took positions on external matters and called attention to the mayor and Sister City Commission's role in making the float happen.

"By having the sister city relationship itself, the city has already decided to step outside of its borders," he said, adding that the commission was struck by float supporters' "profound lack of sensitivity to their fellow Chinese" who have complained.

Hardy also alluded to a parallel between Beijing today and Berlin in 1936 when Adolf Hitler presided over the Olympic Games.

Providing counterpoint, Sister City Chairman Fred Alcantar said his group was part of promoting human rights but discouraged the council from taking action he considered out of its jurisdiction.

"We don't believe the remedy should come from the local level," he said.

That point was raised most directly by District 6 Councilman Steve Madison:

"I don't believe I was elected by my constituents to express opinions on international matters."

Just as the council didn't issue a resolution condemning Al Qaida for Sept. 11, Madison said, weighing in on the issue would open the door for Pasadena to be asked to address any number of perceived unjustices. "We don't have a sister city relationship with Al Qaida," said Councilman Chris Holden in response. "We do have one with China."

There was unanimous consensus to support the concept of human rights, but the council hesitated when it came to applying that to China specifically.

Councilmembers Victor Gordo, Chris Holden and Jacque Robinson favored a more direct statement designed for China.

"If they come back and say we have a problem with your view of human rights, then we'll have to re-evaluate wheter that city is the right fit for Pasadena," Gordo said.

Gordo accepted the idea of including a letter that said the resolution came in response to "allegations of human rights abuses" by China, but Holden urged the council to focus on the matter at hand.

Saying they'd "side-stepped the whole issue of the float," he suggested sending a specific statement to China, which only Councilwoman Jacque Robinson supported.

As the meeting adjourned, Ann Lau, president of the human rights group Visual Artists Guild, held up a drawing she made of a chicken.

The cost of the Beijing Olympic float, estimated at $400,000, was split between Avery Dennison Corp. and an association of Chinese-American organizations, at least one of which is an entity that was created by the Chinese Government.

(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444

Human Rights Commission recommendations

1 The City Council shall create an ad-hoc committee for the purpose of reaching out and communicating with the various individuals and the groups in this matter, the expectation is that the dialogue will result in some concrete action, as discussed above. The ad-hoc committee shall include members of the City Council, the Human Relations Commission, and any others the City Council believes will contribute to this matter.

2 The ad-hoc committee shall report back to the City Council in no later than 30 days. At that time the City Council shall take a final position on the matter. The City Council should entertain any and all of the options discussed and take into consideration the efforts of the involved parties to communicate, to reach some sort of understanding over the issues, and to agree on some concrete action. If some action is agreed to by the parties, then that could be submitted to the City Council for review and, if sufficient, ratification as its final action in the matter.

3 After the ad-hoc committee reports back, the City Council shall also issue a resolution expressing the central importance of human rights principles and concern over the human rights issues in China. The resolution shall reflect upon those matters discussed as well as take into consideration any good faith efforts at interaction, or lack thereof, and shall be communicated in an appropriate manner to the Xicheng District of Beijing.

(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444

posted by Yaning Liu @ 1:46 PM   


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