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Embassy Row: Warning to China

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oregon is defying Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, who created an international diplomatic dispute over a mural on the side of a building in a small city in the Beaver State, named after a rodent that fiercely defends its territory.

The conflict over the mural, which calls for a free Tibet and an independent Taiwan, started when Mr. Zhang dispatched two Chinese diplomats to try to pressure Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning into ordering Taiwanese-American businessman David Lin to remove the painting from his building.

The mayor of the town of 54,500 residents refused to kowtow to the representatives of a billion Chinese. She defended Mr. Lin and Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song, who created the 10-foot-by-100-foot mural that depicts Chinese repression in Tibet and threats against Taiwan, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported.

Ms. Manning soon was joined by the state's two U.S. senators and one member of its House delegation. Suddenly, the ambassador was excoriated in a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden and denounced on the House floor by Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, whose district includes Corvallis. Sen. Jeff Merkley applauded Ms. Manning for refusing to be cowed by Chinese diplomats.

The four Democrats presented the same message to Mr. Zhang, accusing him of interfering with U.S. constitutional rights of free speech.

"Limitations on speech and expression are incompatible with fundamental human rights anywhere in the world, and an attempt by your representatives to limit freedom of speech in the United States is a grave affront," Mr. Wyden wrote in his Sept. 13 letter.

"While these rights might not be respected in China, they are values that all Americans hold dear," he added.

Mr. Wyden warned Mr. Zhang against any further attempts to interfere in free expression anywhere in the United States.

Mr. DeFazio took to the House floor and declared himself "shocked and appalled" by the actions of Vice Consul Zhang Hao and Deputy Consul-General Song Ruan, who are assigned to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

"This represents the basis of our representative democracy -- our freedom of speech and our rights," Mr. DeFazio said, "and it will not be bullied by China or any other overseas interest."


Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Surjit Bhalla, a member of the National Statistical Commission of India and managing director of the Oxus Research and Investments asset management firm in New Delhi. He addresses the Peterson Institute for International Economics on international currency issues.


• Giorgi Muchaidze, executive director of the Atlantic Council of Georgia, who discusses the Oct. 1 elections in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


• Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's most prominent pro-democracy supporter and a former political prisoner. She receives the Congressional Gold Medal, the top honor bestowed by Congress. She also addresses the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

• Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the opposition Georgian Labor Party, who discusses the campaign for the Oct. 1 elections in a briefing at the Center for the National Interest.

• Christian Leuprecht, associate professor of Canada's Royal Military College who participates in a forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on terrorism at the U.S.-Canada border


• Alvaro Uribe, former president of Colombia, who discusses Colombia's talks with Marxist rebels and Venezuela's presidential election in a forum at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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