NY’s Empire State Building chided for honouring China

By Claudia Parsons
October 1, 2009

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Human rights activists slammed managers of New York’s Empire State Building on Thursday for illuminating the skyscraper in red and yellow for China’s 60th anniversary, saying the move honoured a communist entity responsible for human rights violations.

The government in Beijing celebrated the 60th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Republic of China on Thursday with a high-tech parade featuring goose-stepping troops, gaudy floats and nuclear-capable missiles.

Managers of the Empire State Building, New York’s tallest skyscraper, said in a statement the illumination was “in honour of the 1.3 billion Chinese people and the 60th anniversary of their country,” adding that it celebrates “many cultures and causes” throughout the year.

Human Rights Watch, an international rights watchdog that has offices in the Empire State Building, said it had written a letter of complaint to building managers expressing “surprise and dismay” at the decision.

“We have no objection to honouring China as a nation, a great civilization or a vibrant people,” HRW Associate Director Carroll Bogert wrote in the letter that was released publicly.

“However, this date commemorates the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, a political entity that is responsible historically for many grave violations of human rights.”

China mounted a huge spectacle to celebrate the anniversary, but residents were prevented from attending the parade in person, encouraged instead to watch on television.

The government cited security concerns for the lockdown in central Beijing, but the many steps accompanying the celebrations underscore the Communist Party’s fear of unrest that could challenge its authority.

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