Would you be alarmed by the prospect of the Chinese flag flying high above your local City Hall?
Residents of San Leandro, California were, it seems, and the plan prompted a mini-firestorm that forced the mayor to intervene.
It all began on Monday when city council members voted 4-3 to fly the Chinese flag on China’s national holiday, October 1st, local CBS affiliate KPIX5-TV reported.
The day commemorates the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 by Mao Zedong.
The request to raise the flag was made by Councilman Benny Lee, and was supported “as a sign of support for local Chinese residents and as a sign the city is open for Chinese business and investment,” the Contra Costa Times reports.
But throughout the process, there was stiff opposition from human rights activists.
Kunjo Tashi, president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, said the flag “represents blood, blood of the Tibetans, Uighurs and the Chinese people who’ve been killed and massacred by the Chinese government.”
Tsering Dolkar, who was born in India after her parents fled Tibet, said she “can’t take it” to see a country that has “given [her] so much” honor a country that has “taken everything from me and other Tibetans living in exile and inside Tibet.”
See video of the protests, below:
After Monday’s vote, Mayor Stephen Cassidy said his office was flooded with calls and emails objecting to the decision. He quickly stepped in, overruling the city council on Thursday.
“San Leandro does not fly the flags of other nations at our City Hall,” he said. “We need to call a ‘time out’ and allow the community to weigh in on whether or not we should raise the flags of other governments.”
“Those in our community wishing to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China are welcome to use one of our parks, as are other groups celebrating key dates and events of the nation of their origin,” he added.
Now some of you may be thinking, is there a law or code that would prohibit such a move, regardless of the vote?
According to United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1, which pertains to the flag, “When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.”
It also stipulates that a foreign flag cannot be flown “in place of” the United States flag, or in a position of superior prominence or honor.
Therefore, as long as the Chinese flag didn’t replace the American flag, or fly in a place of superior prominence or honor, it would technically be legal.
While the prospect of the Chinese flag flying over a U.S. government building may still seem extraordinary, it actually wouldn’t be the first time.
According to local ABC affiliate KGO-TV, San Francisco, Oakland, and Alamedia have raised the Chinese flag on Oct., 1 as well.