March 8th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Tibetans Greet Chinese Delegation, Randy Leonard Defends his Proclamation

Tibet flag

Since introducing a City Council proclamation last week recognizing Tibet's struggle for freedom, Commissioner Randy Leonard has heard from quite a few angry parties.

The local Chinese business community, Portland's Suzhou sister city committee and the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco have all pressured Leonard over his action.

Leonard says the Tibetans warned him the proclamation would anger China. He later offered to back out of a planned week-long trip to Suzhou this June — an offer he says the sister-city committee representatives gladly accepted.

But even at a time when the city is desperately seeking any kind of investment, Leonard says he doesn't mind pissing off an economic heavyweight if it's for the right reasons.

"I was warned it would come," Leonard says. "If it means selling out our city's principles, I don't want that business, frankly."

As first reported in WW, the Chinese delegation came from San Francisco to protest the City Council's decision last week to recognize Wednesday, March 10, as Tibetan Awareness Day. Shortly after 1 p.m. this afternoon, a delegation from the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco arrived at City Hall to meet separately with Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams.

They weren't alone. The party of seven from the consulate was surrounded on the sidewalk by several dozen Tibetan protesters who had been outside City Hall since before noon.

"China out of Tibet! China out of Tibet!" the protesters chanted, as the Chinese visitors passed through the crowd without looking up. One of the visitors took several photos of the protesters before hurrying into the building.

Before the Chinese arrived, Leonard came outside City Hall to shake hands and pose for photos with the Tibetan protesters.

One of the Tibetan leaders told WW that Leonard was the first Portland commissioner to respond to their request and the only one to grant them a personal meeting. For his part, Leonard says he was inspired by similarities between the history of his ancestral Irish homeland and the Tibetan struggle.

"These are people who have been overwhelmed by a superior force," says Leonard, a history buff. "(I introduced the proclamation) to recognize the rights of all people to have their religion respected and to have their freedom of expression respected."
 
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