Congratulations to City of Pasadena’s own Mayor Bill Bogaard, Metroblogging LA’s very own Grinch of the Year.
Bill bested AMPTP‘s Nick “The Bean” Counter, poster-child of producer-greedy badness in the current Writer’s Strike. Considering the economic impact of the strike, it was quite a feat for Bill to win this (dis)honor.
UPDATE: But not to worry. Our local newspaper has come out in Bill’s defense:
Not Taking on a Global Issue: When your mother’s been wrongly imprisoned in a forced labor “re-education camp” for the crime of having a religion, whatever that religion might be, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
And so of course as Americans we find infinitely compelling the plight of Shuying Li, imprisoned in China for being a member of Falun Gong, and her daughter Yaning Liu, who is trying to get her released. Liu’s work for her mom is moving. The Chinese arrest of a citizen for having a few pamphlets of the spiritual movement in her home is inexplicable to freedom-loving people. It’s also evidence of a government that is deeply insecure about its legitimacy without the iron first of totalitarianism.
But we also find it more than a little ludicrous that since a Beijing Olympics float is scheduled to roll in the Rose Parade Jan. 1, the mayor of Pasadena is all of a sudden the court of last resort for everyone with a beef with the police state that is China.
Liu certainly has every right to join in the protests against the float, which she has done, in the Council Chambers at Pasadena City Hall and elsewhere.
And we applaud her for speaking openly about her mother’s plight, as she did in a recent story by Staff Writer Todd Ruiz. She did so even though four Chinese government officials recently visited her father and asked him “to talk to me and try to persuade me from talking to the press and interrupting their Olympic celebration,” Liu told Ruiz.
Yes, when in extreme situations, people sometimes act extremely.
Liu has our enormous sympathy – and, more than that, we think that our government should go to bat for her and her mother.
But the government that should and even can do so is not the government of Pasadena.
It would be just as logical to go to Rosemead Mayor John Tran for help. After all, there’s a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rosemead, selling millions of dollars worth of Chinese-made goods each year. There’s some economic muscle behind that relationship, distant as it is.
It would certainly be far more logical for Liu to go to her own mayor, Manuel Lozano of Baldwin Park, for help. She lives there. Her mayor might be able to help a constituent figure out the best way to put pressure on a foreign government, at least.
And the office of Rep. Hilda Solis, the member of Congress who represents Liu and her Baldwin Park neighbors, would be an excellent choice as far as American government figures go. Solis’ office could certainly be helpful in helping gain access to State Department or other federal avenues of possible diplomatic pressure on the labor-camp happy thugs of who rule China. (Liu recently said she did contact Solis’ office, to no avail; Thursday Solis did send a letter. Earlier, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, wrote a letter to Chinese officials on Liu’s behalf.) The Chinese officials want the hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to Beijing for next summer’s Olympics to believe that nobody’s unhappy in China. But they don’t realize that in arresting everyone who is unhappy, the whole world will know about the chicanery – or the rest of the world, that is, where there’s a free press.
But the Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that puts on a big parade and accepted an Olympics float. It probably would have accepted a Tehran Olympics float or maybe even a Pyongyang Olympics float, if there were such.
Yes, Pasadena has among its many sister cities a district of Beijing. The sister cities program is again a volunteer organization almost entirely run by local citizens.
Pasadena officialdom has little or no leverage with its counterpart in Beijing. Sure, bring on the protests against what’s wrong with China – protest is the American way. Just don’t look to a medium-sized California burg’s City Hall, with a mayor who is disinclined to get internationalist, to take on the fight.
As I said over at Pasadena’s Political Underbelly – “It (The Tournament of Roses) probably would have accepted a Tehran Olympics float or maybe even a Pyongyang Olympics float, if there were such.” Uh, not exactly. Economic ties with China run deep around here. (But great suggestions for the Doo Dah Parade.)
“…mayor who is disinclined to get internationalist…” Hey, he went to China, didn’t he? Supports the whole sister city thing, right? Disinclined to offend is more like it. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work on this one.
“Pasadena officialdom has little or no leverage with its counterpart in Beijing.” I don’t think this is true. It would be a big deal to if Pasadena broke off the sister city relationship over human rights issues. But even if it is true: So what? Leverage or no leverage, it is appropriate to speak out.
I don’t want the mayor to “take on the fight.” I just want him to take a stand beyond the furrowed brow and hand-wringing.
PS – I’m not sure what being a “volunteer organization” has to do with anything. In this editorial, the fact that the Tournament of Roses and the Sister Cities organization are volunteer-driven implies they haphazard, or ill-conceived, or less credible. Are volunteer organizations incapable of addressing big issues? Can we really say the Tournament of Roses are a bunch of dummies who don’t know one oppressive government from another?