Wyden, DeFazio blast China on Corvallis mural removal request

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Rep. Peter DeFazio is critiquing Chinese diplomats for urging the mayor of Corvallis into forcing a local business owner to take down a mural advocating independence for Tibet and Taiwan.  

Now, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has also joined the fray over the mural with a terse letter about free speech and human rights addressed to Chinese Ambassador Zhang Tesui.

The Corvallis Gazettle-Times reports that the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco complained about the mural in a letter to Mayor Julie Manning last month, then sent two high-ranking officials to Corvallis to press their case in person.

Manning told the Chinese diplomats that freedom of expression is protected under American law.

DeFazio said on Wednesday he's appalled Chinese diplomats have failed to read the U.S. Constitution. >>Watch his short speech in the U.S. House on the matter

Painted by Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song, the mural depicts violent repression of Tibetan protesters by Chinese riot police and defiant images of Taiwan. China considers both regions part of its territory.

"I am writing to express my deep displeasure and concern with these actions" in regards to the mural, Wyden wrote.

"Limitations on speech and expression are incompatible with fundamental human rights anywhere in the world, and an attempt by your representatives to limit freedom of speech in the United States is a grave affront," he added.

"As you know, the right to freedom of speech, which includes artistic expression, has been enshrined in the Constitution of the United States since 1791," Wyden continued. "This also includes the right to freedom of religion, of the press, and the right of people to peacefully assemble. While these rights might not be respected in China, they are values that all Americans hold dear."

"The mural will remain so long as Americans who painted it and host it wish it to remain," he said in closing.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press and KATU News. All rights reserved.)

C-SPAN: Rep. DeFazio speaks at the U.S. House of Representatives about the mural incident: