Sending the Wrong Message – Boston Flag Raising Protests

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I am Chinese American. I was born in Boston, the son of immigrant parents. On July 4th, I don my full red, white, and blue (figuratively, I don’t actually have clothes that match these colors). On October 1st, I celebrate China National Day, a tribute to my heritage. Had it not been for the founding fathers of America or Mao Zedong and the Communist party, I would not be alive today. Despite the clashes in political ideals, I am still proud of my heritage. There is a part of me that is Chinese and a part of me that is American. 

Last Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. This year was particularly special because there would be a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The last time this event occurred was ten years ago, which I cannot recall well. This was a day to be proud of my Chinese heritage.

Boston’s City Hall plaza has annual flag raisings for over 30 countries, including Ireland, Poland, and of course, China. The goal of this is to foster diversity and build and strengthen connections among Boston’s many communities. After all, there is a large population in Boston and Massachusetts of whom are immigrants or of Chinese descent. With the recent acts of defiance in Hong Kong, however, the Chinese government has seen some time in the media spotlight. During the annual October 1st flag raising, resistance from groups representing Hong Kong, Tibet, and the Uighur people sparked tension. They claimed that the Chinese flag symbolizes tyrannical rule and “none of the values [the United States] was founded on.”

In case you have forgotten, this celebration is one that is for culture, heritage, and diversity. Nowhere does it say that the goal is to send political propaganda and promote “brutality”. Many of those living in the U.S. don’t have a chance to go back home very often, and the flag raising serves as a method of unification for Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans. If we were to all of a sudden take this in a political manner, why should Boston continue to promote the flags of Cuba? Is that not another country that has seen violations of human rights? What about Venezuela? I have never seen in the news that there have been people protesting these flags for spreading ideals against the U.S. There has been nothing but celebration for diversity.

Simply put, protesters here in Boston have no consideration for the celebration of a group of people. People who want to have solidarity in a foreign land. Yes, there may be people who are supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. However, protesting a celebration ironically goes against the values that the demonstrators are “fighting” for. Betty Lo, a self-proclaimed “protester”, claims that while she is not from Hong Kong, she can speak Cantonese and was born in the U.S, thus “[relating] to the [protesters’] values of civil liberties, freedom, democracy, which are on the front lines against [the Chinese Communist Party].” I was not aware that simply being able to speak Cantonese allowed one to be aligned with the demonstrations. I will reiterate again that the flag represents a heritage and culture over spreading anti-democracy ideals. Protesting limits the ability for people to be proud of their identity. Why does that seem to go against the aim of the resistance? 

There is nothing that protesting will do. It will only hurt the harmony that exists between cultures, rather than finding a “solution” to the problem. There are other ways of voicing opinions against the Chinese government – disallowing those who want to celebrate a culture is not the method to do so. This method also goes against the entire aim of the protesters as well. People have a right to express their support for a country, especially if it is their home country. Limiting that right is unacceptable, especially in a location where freedom of speech is protected.

Featured Image via Simón Rios/WBUR

About the author

Julian Yang is a boarding student from North Chelmsford, MA, and a member of the VI form at St. Mark’s. He has a strong interest in aviation and general technology. Julian is a flight sim enthusiast, self-proclaimed foodie, and an iPhone photographer. He hopes to share his interests in aviation, technology, sports, and global issues with the Parkman Post. Julian plans to be an economics major in college.

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