There is outrage over the use of the most iconic building in the United States to celebrate Communist China. The Empire State Building was lit red and yellow Wednesday night to honor the 60th anniversary of the revolution that led to the Communist regime.
"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," journalist Marc Masferrer told The Associated Press.
That was the general sentiment outside the building as dozens of people protested, including supporters of Tibet. 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. "But on the other hand, it's sure to backfire because the American public and the global public will speak against it."
At a ceremony in the lobby, 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 over the past 30 years have led to greater openness and "tremendous change."
Neither man addressed concerns from critics and did not answer qustions from the media.
It is common for the lights atop the Empire State Building to be lit in honor of different events. For example, red, white and green are used to commemorate Columbus Day. And on those extremely rare occasions when the New York Mets win something, the building is lit blue and orange.
But this is no miracle victory in Flushing or a national holiday. This is a celebration of what many consider a brutal regime with a terrible record on human rights. It's one of those rare occasions where Democratic and Republican lawmakers are of one opinion.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, (D), New York, 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, (R), New York, said it was "a sad day for New York." He went on, "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."