Blue Flower

Written by NEWS SOURCE   
Oct 26, 2007 at 02:59 AM

Bill Paparian

By Bill Paparian

In July 1996, while serving as mayor of Pasadena, I had the honor of welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to City Hall. This was one of the most memorable events in my 12 years as an elected public official.



Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Paparian with the Dalai Lama in 1996.

Prior to his visit, the State Department and the government of the People's Republic of China, through its Los Angeles consulate, requested that I meet with them to discuss serious concerns they had about this event. During their meeting with me, they emphasized that there would be dire consequences for the relationship between our two countries if I dared to meet with Tibet's true representative, the Dalai Lama. Upon review of China's abysmal human rights record and its continued occupation of Tibet, I was even more determined to arrange to meet Tibet's exiled leader.

Our celebration of the Dalai Lama's visit was a great moment in Pasadena's history. As mayor, I welcomed him as a visiting dignitary in the City Council chambers and presented him with the key to the city. The reception afterwards included thousands of Pasadena's citizens, and it is my belief that hope was offered to many.

In preparation for his visit, I learned that it was a Tibetan tradition to exchange shawls, and that to demonstrate deep respect, one presents a gift of a shawl longer than one receives. I fondly recall the spontaneous youthful delight expressed by His Holiness when I presented him with one of the very longest shawls made.

Since 1999, when my life in public office ended, I have become less involved in local matters. But when I learned that the current mayor of Pasadena has encouraged Beijing to participate in the Rose Parade, I felt betrayed as a resident of this wonderful city.

The 2008 Olympic Bid Committee's statement, at the time it accepted Beijing as the 2008 site, acknowledged the link between human rights and the Olympic Games. The promise of human rights improvement was clearly the expressed goal of both the Beijing Olympic Committee and the International Olympics Committee. The city of Pasadena should look at any Olympics float in the Pasadena Rose Parade as a reflection of progress made toward improved human rights or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, China's record on human rights remains unchanged, and there are no changes in the foreseeable future. Beijing's 17th National Congress of the Communist Party opened with remarks from President Hu Jintao in which he all but ruled out anything more than cosmetic political reforms for at least the next five years.

A Rose Parade float that ignores the plight of 100,000 Tibetans who have escaped into exile, as well as the exile of their leader, the Dalai Lama - not to mention the millions who remain there under cultural, political and religious oppression - will be the biggest embarrassment the city of Pasadena has ever seen. The televised images of demonstrations and protesters around the Beijing float will eclipse any goodwill generated from this parade and seriously damage the reputation of Pasadena.

A Rose Parade float that celebrates Beijing is something that our city does not want. This will be Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard's biggest blunder. Let's spare him - and us - this embarrassment.