What Does it Mean when the Lights are Yellow and Red?

The Empire State Building has different color lights that can be lit to illuminate events.  For instance, the lights shine red, white, and blue around July 4th for the US holiday.  If you know the color system, you can tell about when a scene from a movie or television was shot when it shows the Empire State Building.  The building is not opposed to going international.  The lights have gone red, white, and green for Italian flag on Columbus Day and white, green, and orange for India Day.  Other countries honored in the past include Canada, Australia, and Ireland.

Protestors appeared In late September 2009 when the lights went red and yellow.  Bonus point if you know right now what those lights symbolized.  Not the spoiler:  it was the 60th anniversary of China.  Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu was the for the ceremony and noted he was “honored and delighted.”  He was joined by about 20 protestors who were not delighted.  They were protesting China’s occupation and oppression of Tibet.  They chanted “No to China’s empire, free Tibet now.”  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091001/ap_on_re_us/us_empire_state_building_china

Online, blogger/journalists questioned honoring a country that represses freedom of the press and restricts Internet access.  Lest we forget Google operates with filters in China at the behest of the Chinese government.  Even some New York politicians spoke out against the lights.  “Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York said the lights should not be used to pay tribute to what he called “a nation with a shameful history on human rights.” http://wcbstv.com/local/empire.state.building.2.1217995.html

Fox news noted in a story:

“Tourists were squirming as the city’s 102-story landmark — which gained a special significance for New Yorker’s after 9/11, when it again became Manhattan’s tallest building — was being converted into a shining red beacon for Chinese communism.” http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,557823,00.html

The criticisms echoed concerns of the Olympics taking place in Beijing in the summer of 2008.  Remember how French protestors put out the torch on its relay through France.  The issues arise not just because of China’s policies but because of China’s rising prominence in the world.  China is economic and military super power that is difficult to ignore.  On the plus side, in countries like France and the US, people are free to express their concerns over China celebrations and remind people about the human rights issues.  The world political stage has many players and country’s leadership must be ready for mixed reactions.

Questions to Consider

  1.  If you worked for the management of the Empire State Building, how would you publically justify the lights for China?
  2. How did the lighting serve to help the Free Tibet groups?
  3. As a publicity event, how would you evaluate the success of the event for the Chinese government?
  4. Is it fair to take the lights for China as an endorsement of human rights violations?  Why or why not?
  5. How does the event illustrate the marketplace of ideas?
  6. How does the event illustrate globalization?
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