China was coming under fire from many directions on Thursday. Around 7 p.m. Bay Area Tibetans will hold the second protest of the day at San Francisco City Hall. It is scheduled to be a candlelight vigil to condemn China's crackdown in Tibet. Across town the Chinese Consulate literally came under fire early this morning.
Around 4 a.m. Thursday morning, at least two people splashed a flammable liquid on the metal door protecting the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. The building's security cameras has been turned over to police.
The consulate calls it a terrorist act which seriously threatened the safety of the consulate and the staff. The fire caused little damage, but has attracted maximum attention, due to growing protests over the Beijing Olympics and China's recent actions in Tibet.
In April San Francisco will be the only American city to host the Olympic torch. Those who are critical of China's human rights record, say that ceremony should be scrapped. In fact a protester believes the world's athletes should boycott the games.
"That's the only way you can teach the Chinese government that the international community doesn't accept the brutality they are doing to their own people," said Ngodup Tsering, a protester.
The protestors packed a city hall hearing today to support Supervisor Chris Daly. He sponsored a resolution calling on the mayor, or whichever city official accepts the Olympic flame, to make it publicly known that the torch is received with alarm and protest.
Julian Lee from the Chinese for Peaceful Unification group believes that's inappropriate.
"I don't think it's a good idea to mix the politics with sports. I think as San Franciscans we should warmly welcome this event," said Lee.
What is also becoming as big a controversy to the torch coming here, is how security will be handled. Protesters are worried they'll be restricted to so-called free speech zones. Mayor Gavin Newsom says people will be able to express themselves, but exactly how is yet to be determined.
"Everyone has the right to do that and be afforded that right. It's sacrosanct. And make no mistake; no one should conclude the exact manner and means to which people are going to be expressing that right. That's a work in progress," said Mayor Newsom.
As part of his resolution, Supervisor Daly is pushing to make sure the movements of demonstrators are not limited.
"For First Amendment scholars these so-called free speech zones raise serious questions both constitutional and moral questions," said Daly.
After three hours of debate, Supervisor Daly's resolution did not stand. Supervisor Carmen Cheu took all of the strong language out of it. She watered it down and turned it into a measure welcoming the Beijing torch. Daly says, he'll try again.
The Dalai Lama on Thursday said he is willing to meet with Chinese leaders, but will not travel to Beijing unless there are concrete developments in relations between the government and Tibet. Officials in China have accused the exiled spiritual leader and his supporters of organizing violent clashes in Tibet, in hopes of sabotaging the Beijing summer Olympics and promoting Tibetan independence.
The Olympic torch will pass through San Francisco on April 9th for its only stop in North America, on the way to the 2008 summer games. The flame was last here six years ago, just before the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City.
In the days leading up to the torch relay, there will be two other torch events, two other torch relays will pass through San Francisco. On April 5th the Human Rights Torch will come through and on April 8th, The Tibetan Freedom Torch will be here.