A celebration of communism and an admission Vancouver is for sale: both allegations raised in an online petition and series of social media posts after the Chinese national flag was raised outside city hall Friday.
And both signs of coded racism, according to one Vancouver City Councillor.
The flag was hoisted Friday on a ceremonial pole in the building’s North Plaza that’s previously flown the pride and trans flag, along with a number of other countries’.
Online reaction was swift, and sometimes nasty.
So the Chinese Flag is flying over Vancouver City Hall today. Am I the only one who's offended?#VanRE— JJ Schtaunkhauser (@Schtaunkhauser) October 2, 2016
Former COPE Mayoral candidate Meena Wong also took issue with the event, pointing to Chinese Human Rights violations and posting a statement to Facebook.
“My family and I suffered greatly under that national flag. During the infamous Cultural Revolution, the red guards wearing red scarves came to our home and took everything valuable. … No, I don’t want to see the Chinese national flag raised in the city of Vancouver on civic property and by a city counsellor [sic].”
The petition calls raising “a foreign country’s national flag in front of the Vancouver City Hall … absolutely unacceptable,” and takes aim at Councillor Kerry Jang’s red scarf, which it describes as having “a strong political implication, meaning the struggle for communism.”
But Jang, whose resignation is called for in the petition says there’s something darker at work in the furor.
“That’s just racism at its worst, and the vilification of anybody. You know it could be Chinese today, it could be Mexicans, or it could be somebody else tomorrow. And that is just ridiculous and those types of people I just don’t have time for.”
Jang says he’s been the target of plenty of racist email in the past, and said it was upsetting to be targeted.
Regarding the Communist China’s violent history and legacy of human rights issues, Jang had this to say:
“You know we could be like some countries and revile everything but that doesn’t help anyone or change anything. In fact it makes people dig in deeper into whatever entrenched positions they are.”
As for the red scarf, he laughed.
“Red is the Chinese colour for luck and good fortune.”
Since Friday, the flag has been removed and replaced with that of the Canadian Association of Retired People.
The flag was hoisted Friday the 30th to mark the People’s republic of China’s 67th anniversary, at an event that included Richmond East MP Joe Peschiolido.
It’s the type of event the city describes as common. In the last year the Greek, Armenian, Mexican, and Ukranian flags were among those flown on the pole, which the city says is for ceremonial purposes, and not the facility’s official flag pole.
Jang says the flag events are performed at the behest of local community groups, the same explanation the city gives for not issuing press releases for the events.
“This is not unusual. We do this for many different cultures. Recently we had Mexican national day, we’ve had Slovenian national day. So you know, we use that flag pole really to celebrate the different cultures in Vancouver.”
Vancouver is not the only city raising the Chinese flag to mark the country’s national day. Vaughn Ontario held a similar event today, and on Friday Ontario premier Kathleen Wynn participated in a flag event at Queen’s Park, the province’s legislature.
The City of Vancouver released a statement reiterating its flag policy Monday, along with a list of other events or celebrations year-round that warrant the raising of another country’s flag.
“At the discretion of the City Clerk, the City will fly the flags of other sovereign nations, non-profit societies and other local organizations upon request.
Flag raising ceremonies at City Hall are requested by community groups by submitting a request to the City’s Protocol Office. The community group organizes the event, sends out invites and the City provides the space. As flag raisings are community organized events, it is up to the organizing group on how they promote it, including inviting media. Flags raised to recognize national days remain on the pole up until sunset on the day of the official national day unless there is a conflict with another flag raising.”