The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday
approving a strongly worded resolution authored by Supervisor Chris Daly condemning
documented human rights abuses in Tibet by the Chinese government.
Photos by Luke Thomas
By Ari Burack
April 1, 2008
A symbolic but controversial resolution addressing human rights concerns when the Beijing Olympic torch is welcomed to San Francisco next week passed the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday, but could meet with resistance from a mayor who has called for the event not to be politicized.
By an 8-3 vote, the board today approved Supervisor Chris Daly’s resolution to loud cheers, and some tears, from an audience of Bay Area Tibetans, Chinese and others who have protested outside City Hall for the past few weeks, opposing the torch’s arrival and calling for international support for human rights in Tibet, Burma and Darfur, and for Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu – all Mayor Gavin Newsom appointees – voted against Daly’s resolution.
A less strident resolution sponsored by Supervisor Chu, herself Chinese-American, was shot down by a 7-4 vote.
Chu’s resolution lacked content, Daly said.
Supervisor Carmen Chu
“Alarm and protest”
Daly’s resolution would welcome the torch to the city – its only North America destination – on April 9 with “alarm and protest at the failure of China to meet its past solemn promises to the international community, including the citizens of San Francisco, to cease the egregious and ongoing human rights abuses in China and occupied Tibet.”
“The record of the Chinese government’s violation of people’s human rights is a well documented one,” Daly said at today’s board meeting, adding that he saw the resolution as “a unique and historic opportunity to once again reaffirm human dignity and promote fundamental human rights for all people.”
Supervisor Chris Daly
Daly did acknowledge that such international issues were “a bit out of the reach of San Francisco supervisors.”
“That being said, the torch is coming to San Francisco,” he said.
Outside the board chamber, Daly conceded the resolution’s symbolic character, but added, “Let’s not discount the importance of words.”
Human rights reform
Daly said he hoped the resolution would “nudge the Chinese government” toward human rights reforms, as a supporter listening nearby held her head in her hands and wept softly.
“If we can save a few lives by weighing in here in San Francisco,” Daly said, “then I think we have done a good thing.”
The Pelosi factor
Daly added he has been encouraged by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strong stand against the Chinese government’s oppression of Tibetans – calling on President George Bush to boycott the opening Olympic ceremonies in Beijing.
“I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table,” Pelosi told “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts in an interview aired today.
“The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” Pelosi added.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Daly’s resolution also welcomes to the city the Global Human Rights Torch on April 5 and the Tibetan Freedom Torch on April 8, and calls not only for an international inquiry into “recent atrocities” in Tibet, but for Mayor Gavin Newsom to express his concern about said “atrocities” when he hosts the torch in San Francisco.
After the vote, Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard reiterated the mayor’s views that while he is “very concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet…it’s very important to try to keep politics and the Olympics separate,” Ballard said.
Daly, who has often clashed publicly with Newsom, responded to that contention during the meeting, saying that such a separation was “an impossibility” given the history of the Olympic Games.
Newsom is also urged in the resolution to provide full access to protestors along the route of the torch rally, and San Francisco police today offered the first complete details about the six-mile torch route along the San Francisco waterfront.
The relay will begin at 1 p.m. on April 9 with an opening ceremony at McCovey Cove. The route will then proceed north to Third Street, the Embarcadero, Jefferson Street, Hyde Street, Beach Street, Polk Street, Bay Street and back to the Embarcadero for a concluding ceremony at Justin Herman Plaza.
Though the mayor’s office has promised full access along the route to sidewalk protestors, as well as larger spaces for organized groups that have received city permission, police noted in the announcement that the route is subject to change “as deemed necessary” by the International Olympic Committee, the Beijing Olympic Committee on Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee, or by San Francisco city officials.
Newsom has up to 10 days to approve or veto the resolution.
If vetoed, the board could overturn the veto with the same eight votes that approved the resolution today.
If the mayor allows the 10 days to elapse without signing off on the resolution, it would be deemed approved without his official approval or rejection.
Ballard said today that the mayor has not yet read through Daly’s resolution.
“He’s got to take a look at it and read the fine print,” Ballard said.
Luke Thomas contributed to this report.