With President Obama preparing to preside over the official unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the last thing the administration needs is a controversy over the “Made in China” label for the 30-foot structure. But the shocking truth, known for many years, is beginning to be picked up by some media outlets as the special event approaches. The project in honor of the American civil rights figure was “outsourced” to Lei Yixin, a Chinese government-approved sculptor best known for creating edifices glorifying Mao Tse-Tung, father of Communist China and notorious mass-murderer.
The four acres of land for the memorial were granted by Congress and $10 million of the $120 million cost came from U.S. taxpayers. A law authorizing the memorial was signed by President Clinton in 1996. Ironically, the $10 million in federal funding was in a 2005 appropriations amendment co-sponsored by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
On Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, Obama will deliver remarks at the memorial dedication on the National Mall. The White House says the memorial “will commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to world peace through non-violent social change.”
Mao, in a 1968 official Chinese government pamphlet, declared that King had been “assassinated by the U.S. imperialists” and that they had “killed him in cold blood.”
These statements were featured in a published “Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-Tung, chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, In support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression.”
“So this is what we’ve come to. Our national memorials are now being made in China,” commented one blogger. The London Telegraph said, “Critics have openly asked why a black, or at least an American, artist was not chosen and even remarked that Dr. King appears slightly Asian in Mr. Lei’s rendering.” Other observers agreed, with one noting, “King looks half Chinese in the sculpture. 1000 years from now that is what people will think.”
On Monday’s “NBC Nightly News,” however, anchor Brian Williams aired a “Lasting Legacy” story about the opening of the monument to the public without mention of any controversy. The omission may have something to do with the fact that NBC Universal was one of the financial contributors to the memorial. Other contributors include CBS and the government of South Africa.
Many public and political figures and business executives provided the leadership for the process of building a national memorial honoring King. A “Donor’s Wall” will recognize “high level” ($1,000,000 and above) donors.
But sculptor Gilbert Young, a world renowned black artist known for African American art, had formed a group, When King Is Ours, which was designed, in his words, to protest “the appointment of a communist Chinese artist, famous for glorifying the mass murderer Mao Zedong,” to do the King monument. He also complained that the project was using slave labor.