Melham (kindly) tells China to buzz off over flag raising

Uh oh.

International politics landed on the front porch in Belleville, where Mayor Michael Melham received an unexpected letter from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China.

Somehow, the Chinese government learned the township was planning to raise the Tibetan flag on Friday, Feb. 9, and sent a last-second letter, imploring the mayor to cancel the noon event at town hall, citing the flag as the symbol of “an illegal separatist political group.”

Melham’s response? Sorry, China — the flag will fly.

The letter the Chinese consulate sent to Melham. Click to see it enlarged.

The mayor responded in writing to Ambassador HUANG Ping, consul general, saying: “Here in Belleville, New Jersey, we pride ourselves on fostering an environment of inclusivity and acceptance, regardless of nationality or territorial affiliation. Our community’s rich history is deeply rooted in these principles, shaping the very essence of who we are.”

The mayor added: “It’s essential to clarify that our intentions are not aimed at challenging the sovereignty of any nation. Instead, our gesture symbolizes solidarity with the Tibetan people and their aspirations for freedom and self-determination.”

Melham told the ambassador Belleville has also flown the Cuban flag, driven by a commitment to support communities worldwide in their pursuit of basic human rights and freedom.

“We stand with the Tibetan people in their struggle for autonomy and respect for their cultural heritage,” the mayor concluded, urging Ping to delve into Belleville’s “fascinating Chinese history, which spans over a century and a half.”

He also noted Belleville is live streaming a Chinese New Year event on Saturday, Feb. 10, serving “as a testament to our deep appreciation for Chinese culture and traditions. It is a reflection of our longstanding relationship with the Chinese community.”

In addition, the township’s decision to fly the Qing Dynasty flag next week will honor historical ties. The three-sided Emperor’s dragon banner flew in Belleville from 1870 to 1887.

“As a township, we remain committed to fostering understanding, dialogue, and mutual respect among all peoples, both locally and globally,” the mayor said.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.