China Beat Archive



Hongmei Li

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January 1, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright January 1, 2009 Hongmei Li. Used by permission.


While the Tournament of Roses is busy preparing for the Pasadena Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2009, it is interesting to revisit a controversy over a Beijing Olympic float for the 2008 parade for at least three reasons: (1) the controversy, largely provoked by FLG practitioners and other human rights groups, attracted huge media attention and the Pasadena city government and its human relations commission held several meetings to consider its position; (2) some analogies can be drawn between the controversy and the protests against the overseas leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay; (3) the controversy also indicates the challenges that Beijing faces in general when it attempts to engage the American public in specific and the Western publics in general.

The Pasadena Sister Cities China Subcommittee initiated the idea of a Chinese Olympic float in 2004 as a form of cultural exchange. In 2004, Avery Dennison, a Pasadena-based company that has branches in China, expressed an interest in being a sponsor. There were sporadic meetings between Pasadena and Xicheng, which is a sister city of Pasadena, from 2004 to 2006. However, Xicheng was told by the Beijing City Municipality that it had “no right to enter an Olympic float.”

Sue Zhang, a prominent Chinese American community leader in Los Angeles became interested in the idea of a Chinese rose float and thus contacted officials in Beijing and talked with the mayor in Pasadena. She was connected with Avery Dennison through the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee and thus became an organizer of a Beijing Olympic-themed float. Ten Chinese Americans became sponsors, with each contributing 20,000 dollars and Avery Dennison contributed 200,000 dollars.