BREAKING: Chinese flag raising canceled amid protest

BREAKING: Chinese flag raising canceled amid protest

Michele Ellson

A decades-old conflict festering thousands of miles away took root on the steps of Alameda City Hall on Tuesday when more than a dozen protesters with an assortment of pro-Tibet groups forced the cancellation of a planned raising of China’s flag.

The flag was to be raised during a ceremony conducted by the Alameda Sister City Association in front of City Hall to celebrate China’s National Day, which celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China. But it was canceled due to the protest.

“I’m not here to divide the community. I’m here with the Social Service Human Relations Board in the name of peace,” said Stewart Chen, the only sitting council member to attend Tuesday's event. The sister city association is an offshoot of the board, on which Chen once served.

Protesters said they saw the flag ceremony as an opportunity to raise awareness about China’s takeover of Tibet and subsequent human rights abuses.

“Regardless of whether it’s politics or not, I think it’s important to raise this issue whenever the opportunity arises,” said Tenzing Gyaltsen of Students for a Free Tibet.

In addition to the protests outside City Hall, the Minnesota-based Tibetan National Congress wrote a letter to Mayor Marie Gilmore asking her to suspend the ceremony.

Event organizers originally planned only to cancel the flag-raising portion of the ceremony, after China’s consul begged off of a planned appearance here. But dozens of students from Chinese Christian School who were scheduled to sing the national anthem as the Chinese and American flags were raised were hustled back onto their school bus after a conflict erupted on the steps of City Hall between protesters and attendees who attempted to set up for a photo.

Protesters cheered and shouted, “USA! USA!” when former City Councilman Frank Matarrese, who helped organize the event, announced it was being canceled.

“We’ll be back next year!” one protester shouted.

The flag raising ceremonies, which have taken place in San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda over the past several years, are seen by some as a demonstration of respect to the people of China – in American cities with huge Chinese populations. Nearly a third of Alameda’s residents are Asian, recent U.S. Census data show.

They are also taking place as Alameda and other cities seek out Chinese investment in development efforts.

San Leandro’s City Council narrowly approved a proposal to hold a flag raising ceremony Tuesday before Mayor Stephen Cassidy canceled it; San Leandro Councilman Benny Lee – who proposed holding the ceremony and who was heckled by protesters – said the council will discuss it again on Monday.

“Through my grassroots development work for China over the past 10 years, I understand how important such a symbolic event it is to develop friendship and moving forward to build a better world together,” Wujing Harrison, a onetime Alameda resident whose father is from Jiangyin, China, wrote in a flyer she handed out at the event.

Wuxi, China is one of Alameda’s three sister cities, relationships Chen said have been developed by American cities for more than 50 years to help people from different countries get to know each other personally, instead of through politics.

But the ceremonies have drawn the ire of Tibet supporters who feel they honor a government that has oppressed Tibetans and others.

“The flag represents a government that ran tanks over their own people who were protesting peacefully in Tiananmen Square in 1989,” protesters wrote in a flyer handed out Tuesday. “For others, like Tibetans and Uighurs, it represents a symbol of occupation of their homeland and unremitting oppression.”

If anything, the event and protest fostered a discussion between attendees and protesters – some of whom paired off peacefully to discuss the dispute and others who discussed their differences less peacefully.

Chen said there are no plans to raise the Chinese flag at a future date.

“This was supposed to be happy and cheerful and fun. Not to have a divisive community,” he said.

A poster to an anonymous blog site claimed to have taken down the city website to oppose the flag raising, but the city's website was functioning when a reporter checked Tuesday evening.


Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Tue, Oct 1, 2013

Aside from the Tibet issue, I'm appalled that we would ever raise the flag of another country alongside that of the U.S. at our City Hall. An already sad day for America just got sadder. Apparently, we're not just out of business, we're up for sale.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Tue, Oct 1, 2013

Thanks for reporting on this protest. It brings up an important question: What part of China do we need better understanding of - our well-off sister city of Wuxi, or Tibet? A recent Human Rights Watch report, especially the video, argues for being more sensitive to the plight of people such as the Tibetans Maybe we should add another sister city - from Tibet.

Submitted by Margarita Lacabe (not verified) on Tue, Oct 1, 2013

Alas, Tibet is under occupation from China, who control the administration of Tibetan cities. Tibetans living under occupation are not allowed to raise their flag nor have photos of the Dalai Lama.

Perhaps an idea to be pursued is forming a sister-city relationship with McLeod Ganj, the village where the Tibetan government in exile has its seat. It is, however, in India.

Submitted by Rigzing (not verified) on Tue, Oct 1, 2013
Just saw this news in the net that thousand of chinese people showed up at Tainanman square to protest China`s government and many got arrested. I thought City of Alameda should read this.

Submitted by Tibettruth (not verified) on Wed, Oct 2, 2013

Tibettruth, a not-for-profit network of individuals who support justice, human rights and independence for the peoples of Tibet and East Turkestan would like to thank the good people of Alameda for extending support and understanding to those who opposed the raising of China's flag in the City, an action that would have bestowed honor upon regime which violently suppresses the very Chinese people Mr Chen claims the planned event was supposed to respect and value. Surely City Hall and the Sister City association can find a less political manner of celebrating China's culture and its people, that does not include the founding of Communist China and associated human rights issues?

Submitted by David Lloyd Hudson (not verified) on Wed, Oct 2, 2013

What is missing from this article is the real issues Tibetans and other illegally invaded nationals have with the Chinese authorities. Did you know that Chairman Mao murdered more people with his Communist Party of China than all the other Dictators put together, including Stalin and Hitler! Yet still most if the world still do business with this same party, ruled now by his men, who continue to murder, torture, rape, abuse, beat, illegally arrest, forcefully sterilise and organ harvest today, every day! They do this to Tibetans, Urghurs, East Kirdystanis, Manchurians, Fallon Gong practitioners, land owners they want the land of, amongst others that stand up against them. They are guilty of far worse genocide than Hitler and yet the world has done nothing to stop them because they went cap in hand for trade. Even the USA's vast debt is 10% owned by China. What's more, this has gimme on now for over 60 yeara and every one of our governments since then is guilty if putting theirs heads in the sand! Go figure!

Submitted by Reasonable Resident (not verified) on Wed, Oct 2, 2013

There should never be a cause for any other country's flag to be flying along the United States flag. If Chinese, Japanese, Irish or Mexicans want to recognize their homeland, do it by flying the flag of the country that allows the the freedom to do so. I applaud the protesters and their efforts to help retain the integrity of our country and for educating others that they are now living in OUR country, not the country their families came from.

Submitted by A Chinese American (not verified) on Wed, Oct 2, 2013

The idea of raising the PRC Flag at City Hall, it may raised stereotype questions about the Chinese American in the US. The PRC flag does not represent my Chinese American Heritage, it is not racist, if you oppose the raising of PRC flag.Celebration of PRC National Day Oct 1, is not my Chinese American Heritage either. My family celebrated the 4th of July, the American Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year,Easter, Christmas and Fall Moon Cake activities. As Mayor Cassidy, of San Leandro who said symbols are important. "A national flag is a representation of people. It's also a representation of government," My family has allegiance to US Flag, and don't want to be concerned Communist. Good job Tibetan protestors in Alameda. I support your peaceful protest, at least you won't get run over by a tank here.

Submitted by Tony Daysog on Thu, Oct 3, 2013

Just for the record: I'm truly saddened that the flag-raising ceremony was scuttled for the reason described in the write-up. I am aware of and yet cannot pretend to fully comprehend the depth of Tibetan ex-pats' disdain for the PRC, as they and so many of their loved ones have suffered and are now suffering by PRC actions and policies in Tibet that the USA, I am sure, also opposes vehemently.

But . . . in my opinion, that is exactly why even on a local level we should and must engage nations such as PRC through events like flag-waving ceremonies. For sure, a flag-raising ceremony is an acknowledgement of affection of those in our community now have toward lands from which their fore-fathers and fore-mothers come, and this Councilmember sees nothing wrong in that for the reason I see nothing wrong in celebrating St. Pat's Day, Filipino independence day, Mexican independence day, etc., etc. But, to me, a flag-raising ceremony is that and even more: it's a ceremony to wave our own flag -- USA -- proudly and remind ourselves why we are here and why we are A-m-e-r-i-c-a-n-s.

When we raise Old Glory, and have other flags raised along-side, this is an opportunity to show how far we as a people have come socially, culturally, economically and spiritually, and we have done so because of the freedoms we have fought and sacrificed for that are now memorialized in countless ways, chief among which is our Constitution.

I have no doubt that one day soon even those on the commanding heights of the PRC will see the social, cultural, economic and spiritual benefits of following the successful path of the USA in opening up their society even more, and I see in flag raising ceremonies a small step opportunity toward that end.

So, I am saddened because I believe the advocates for a free Tibet while they are right in their hearts really missed out on an opportunity to engage their issue in a manner to the benefit of all. And, I am saddened because this was a missed opportunity to raise another flag alongside Old Glory and reflect on how lucky we are to be in the U-S-A. So, I look forward to attending next year's flag-raising ceremony.

U-S-A . . . U-S-A . . . U-S-A.

Tony Daysog
Alameda City Councilmember.

Submitted by Margarita Lacabe (not verified) on Thu, Oct 3, 2013

Mr Daysog is being disingenuous. He knows perfectly well that the purpose of a flag raising ceremony is to honor the state for which the flag stands - in this case the totalitarian Chinese regime that killed 73 million people and continues to kill scores more, while occupying Tibet and persecuting political, ethnic and religious minorities. That's why the ceremony is on October 1st, the day in which Mao founded the People's Republic of China. And that's why it involves /only/ the flag of the People's Republic of China. If the purpose was to honor the Chinese people, it would involve all Chinese flags past and present. Remember, after all, that the Bay Area's Chinese-American community is very old and many Chinese came to America long before the establishment of the PRC.

The fact that the PRC flag stands for the Chinese communist regime is why the Chinese government forces Tibetans and other minorities to fly Chinese flags whether they want it or not. This year, Tibetans riled up against it and suffered the consequences (see

If Mr. Daysog really wants to see another flag be raised next to "Old Glory", then I suggest that he convince his contacts in the PRC government to raise our flag. My bet is that he won't do it.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on Fri, Oct 4, 2013

Hey Chen, Daysog, Matarrese, other scoobied local officials who thought this was a great idea: if you want to celebrate Chinese heritage in our fair city, light off some firecrackers and bring out the lion dancers or something. Don't do it by celebrating the foundation of a totalitarian regime by raising it's flag over government buildings. Even my Chinese wife thinks it's a dumb idea. Yes, it's true that 30% of Alamedans are ethnic asians, I'm guessing not all of them are Chinese or appreciate the PRC flag flying over city hall. You wouldn't raise the Tibetan or Taiwanese flags because you wouldn't want to offend your bosses in Beijing. I will keep this in mind next time you're up for a vote. My guess is they won't be raising the stars & stripes in China.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on Sat, Oct 5, 2013

Isn't city hall across the street from a Tibetan Buddhist temple? What did they think would happen when they planned this stunt? Brilliant.

Submitted by Brian (not verified) on Sat, Oct 5, 2013

The Chinese Autumn Moon Festival was just two weeks ago. That would have been a great time to hold a non-political, cultural community event. But no, Alameda officials just had to choose October 1, Mao Zedong day. I wonder who Stewart Chen, and Benny Lee (of San Leandro) are working for?

Submitted by uncomfortable w... (not verified) on Sun, Oct 6, 2013

Has anyone the program 48 hrs about the American family that lost their son in Singapore...they can not prove their son was murder...Spies, Lies and Secrets on 48 hours program...It really makes person think when people want raise the PRC Flag in a US city and then this 48 hours program shows this story, not so comfortable....