Video: Empire State to go red for China's 60th

  1. Closed captioning of: Empire State to go red for China's 60th

    >>> a plan to light up the empire state building in honor of china's 60th anniversary is causing controversy you can not the first time the new york landmark has changed, colorful lights commemorate or honor a particular holiday or day. earlier this month, the building was red, white and blue in memory of september 11th . tonight, the colors will be red and yellow. critics of china's communist government are not amused by that. they point out that the u.s. state department has said that china's human rights record remains poor and even gotten worse on some issues. joining us from capitol hill is new york congressman anthony wiener, thank you, congressman, for joining us. my pleasure, thank you.

    >> i understand you are against this idea. why?

    >> well with, you know, it is an iconic marker in new york life. the empire state building lights up for september 11th or the st. patrick's day parade, it is kind of a hat tip from the people of new york to a cause or to a people. i'm not sure it was meant to be used for a country that has the values and record that the chinese do and i frankly think it wasn't carefully thought through. and i think it is not the kind of thing that we should be doing. you know it is a special occasion when with the empire state building lights up in a certain way and i think that while we don't ignore history and we have many chinese-americans in new york , i think paying tribute to this for the anniversary of the -- of that regime probably suspect something we want to do.

    >> interesting, do have some right now, talking about iran and the talks that will take police tomorrow and a part of perhaps the solution how to deal with iran is china and them supporting the united states , sanctions are there. they are allies and in some cases, but some might say but they are not worthy of being honored, i guess, on the empire state building ?

    >> yeah, i guess that is more or less the way like at t irvan a perfect example. one of the reasons iran is a nuclear power right now is the support they have gotten from china. more people in china trails being held for being political dissidents than any other country on on earth. the difference is i'm fine having debate, discussion, diplomatic relations , i just think that this is such an important kind of iconic thing that we do that it has never got ton this level of controversy you some of the things they have had recently, honoring the "wizard of oz" with colors of the ruby red shoes, i don't think paying tribute to the chinese government is something should be used for.

    >> a building spokesperson has given up the statement saying "the etch pyre state building celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lighting, the full listings of all lightings is available on our website." you have any intention of talk to ms. picker or looking at the wiebe site?

    >> the website doesn't list every one, just the last couple of months. i did speak to the head of the company that essentially runs the building and own it is and i have made that i position clear. they say we take all comers and we make some decisions, they did point out that they changed the lighting to not be all red, which is what the chinese government wanted. i think we have to decide a little bit about what this symbol means. look, we are not doing international diplomacy that is true. one thing we are trying to do is say this now the tallest building in new york , going to be lit up in honor of certain things, i'm not sure we want to honor the chinese. i think we want to ask them to change, we want to ask them to be better allies and respect the rights of their people.

    >> our republican strategist of the an guest on our show, he blogged about this, wrote in part, you almost have to hand it to the chinese government , the country can opened up economically, learned enough about western capitalism to know that anything has a price. apparently that includes honoring a regime responsible for murdering millions millions of peoplesome this about money?

    >> i don't know. what know what kind of financial transaction there was for this thing. i do know that one of the -- one of the coltage games people play in new york is one of the things that why is the empire state building a certain color on a certain day, i think when people look up, they don't say it is because the chinese did anything good. what they managed to dork as that commentator said, figured out a way to get attention in perhaps the icon of free speech, they were able to get attention for being anything but that.

    >> all right. thank you very much, congressman anthony wiener, always a pleasure to speak with you. thank you.

    >> my pleasure.

    >>> an update on a storytelling

updated 9/30/2009 9:30:46 PM ET 2009-10-01T01:30:46

Red and yellow lights shone from the top of the Empire State Building at dusk Wednesday, a tribute to communist China's 60th anniversary that protesters labeled "blatant approval" of totalitarianism and criticized as inappropriate for an icon in the land of the free.

The building is routinely lit with different to mark holidays and big events, but opponents questioned whether it's right to commemorate a sensitive political issue, particularly when China has such a poor human rights record.

About 20 supporters of Tibet, which China has ruled since shortly after communists took over in 1949, protested outside the building during a ceremonial lighting of a scale model inside the lobby. They chanted "No to China's empire; free Tibet now," and held signs reading, "Empire State Building celebrating 60 years of China's oppression."

Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, called the lighting "outright, blatant approval for a communist totalitarian system."

"It's a great public relations coup for the Chinese state," Tethong said as tourists gawked at the protesters. "But on the other hand, it's sure to backfire because the American public and the global public will speak against it."

‘Honored and delighted’
At the lobby ceremony, building manager Joseph Bellina called the lights a high honor and said he was proud of the relationship between "our countries and our people."

Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu, who pulled the switch on the glass-encased model, said he was "honored and delighted."

He said China's reforms of the past 30 years have led to greater openness and "tremendous change."

Keyu and Bellina didn't address critics and declined to answer questions.

Journalist and blogger Marc Masferrer questioned legitimizing a government that continues to repress its citizens' freedoms, including their access to media and the Internet.

"I don't think one of our great landmarks should be turned into a platform to honor a regime and a system responsible for as much tragedy and all the other things that come with a repressive system," he told The Associated Press.

Masferrer pointed out that this year is also the 20th anniversary of the violently crushed student-led movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The People's Liberation Army is believed to have killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of protesters.

Politicians united in their disdain.

‘Sad day for New York’
Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, said the lights should not be used to pay tribute to what he called "an oppressive regime" with a "shameful history on human rights."

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said it was "a sad day for New York."

"I am strongly opposed to it or any commemoration of the Communist Chinese revolution. It's one thing to acknowledge the government; it's totally immoral to honor it."

The lights atop the building, which is owned by W&H Properties, are often are changed. For example, Italian colors — red, white and green — commemorate Columbus Day, while green, white and orange are displayed for the India Day parade.

For the Chinese anniversary, the lights were to remain on through early Thursday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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