One of America‘s symbols for free enterprise is transformed into a shining monument honoring China‘s communist revolution.
The Empire State Building shone in red and yellow lights over New York City on Wednesday night to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bloody communist takeover.
The tower is lit in white most nights, but nearly every week gets splashed with color to honor holidays and heroes — red, white and blue for Independence Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, true blue for New York’s Finest.
The building’s managers say they have honored a host of countries, including Canada, India and Australia, but as of Wednesday that list of honorees now includes one of the world’s last great totalitarian regimes.
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.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Dick Paasch, 69, from Billings, Montana. “The Chinese Revolution … in the years 1958-1960, there were something like 26 million people starved to death. Why would we want to celebrate something like that?
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said it was a mistake to pay tribute to what he called “a nation with a shameful history on human rights.”
Historians of the revolution noted the unimaginable — and often forgotten — toll of the revolution and China’s communist rule, which has taken tens of millions of lives through years of war, famine, reeducation and wholesale slaughter.
“China gets treatment that other dictatorships can only dream of — a free pass on human rights,” said Arthur Waldron, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
The revolution and its aftermath may have been deadlier than any world war: though estimates vary, research from the historian Chang Jung shows that as many as 72 million people died as a result.
During one five-year period alone, the Great Famine of 1958-1962, 36 million Chinese are believed to have starved as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a government policy meant to industrialize the nation.
During those years of ruin, peasants ate bark, maggots, bird droppings, human flesh — anything to survive — as government storehouses stood full with grain and other cereals, neither the first nor last in China’s troubled line of violations of human rights.
“China remains strongly oppressive” said Waldron.
Lhadon Tethong said that the lights on the building “are a symbol of support for the Chinese state — for a totalitarian state,” which ignores the country’s “abominable record on human rights, on liberty.”