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City Hall should be ashamed of raising Chinese flag in the name of diversity | Christine Flowers

Raising the flag of a brutal totalitarian regime does not honor the immigrants whose parents and grandparents were brutalized by the government it represents.

Philadelphia City Hall.
Philadelphia City Hall.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

In the People’s Republic of China, members of Falun Gong, a devout religious minority, say they have been tortured. Christians are repressed, unless they belong to state-sanctioned branches of the religion, and current President Xi Jinping has given direct control of the churches to the Communist Party. Muslim Uighurs have been subject to a largely-ignored cultural genocide. Political protesters are gassed, imprisoned, and silenced. The shadow of Tiananmen Square blocks out the sun.

Communist China celebrated its 70th birthday this week. On Oct. 1, 1949, Mao Zedong and his supporters established one of the most brutal regimes in modern history, on par with Hitler’s Third Reich, Pol Pot’s Cambodian Killing Fields, and Stalin’s Russia.

And the City of Philadelphia commemorated its founding by raising the national flag on the north apron of City Hall.

The city claimed it raised the flag as part of a program devoted to multiculturalism and diversity and in honor of the immigrants who enrich our great metropolis. But the optics are not nearly as sunny as that description suggests.

I’m an immigration attorney, so I welcome any opportunity to highlight the amazing contributions of our immigrant population. As a proud Italian American, I look forward to honoring my ancestors at the Columbus Day Parade later this month.

But this is different. Raising the flag of a brutal totalitarian regime does not honor the immigrants whose parents and grandparents were brutalized by the government it represents. Raising that flag does not honor the humanity of those Chinese refugees, prisoners of conscience, and victims of persecution who I have met in my capacity as an asylum advocate. Raising that flag is an abomination.

I emailed Mayor Kenney and the office of the City Representative, begging them to rethink the event.

I wrote:

“I am outraged at the announcement that the city will be raising the flag of China on 10/1 to honor the founding of a regime as bloody as Hitler and Stalin … You pride yourself on leading a city that supports immigrants. Honoring the founding of the People’s Republic of China, particularly in the wake of heroic protests in Hong Kong, is a slap in the face to the people who have suffered under totalitarian regimes, like many of my clients.”

They responded with a polite regurgitation of their diversity message which read, in part:

“[W]e want to assure you that all of our flag raisings are not meant to support a specific government, political party, or movement. Rather, they are an opportunity to celebrate our immigrant communities, and for people with shared heritage to celebrate their backgrounds and experiences.”

Sorry, but it’s hard to understand how raising the Communist flag of China is not meant to support the Communist regime of China. And if you think I’m picking on the Democrats, I find just as repugnant Donald Trump’s tweet in support of China, congratulating “President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.”

I’m not alone in this opinion. Protesters rallied against a Chinese flag-raising at Boston’s City Hall, saying they stood in solidarity with pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong and against the Chinese government, which they said was violent, repressive, and nothing to celebrate.

Why not just announce a parade down the Parkway to commemorate the birth of Stalin in December? Or maybe raise the swastika at City Hall to commemorate Jan. 30, 1933, the day Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany?

You don’t have to spend your days representing refugees to understand how this City of Brotherly Love missed the point of a diversity exercise.