Fans and critics of lined the streets of downtown throughout the day to share their feelings about the Chinese president.
Well-wishers mixed with fiery protesters Tuesday on downtown Seattle streets, where groups of hundreds gathered throughout the day to express how they feel about President Xi Jinping’s U.S. arrival.
Supporters of Xi’s regime waved Chinese flags to greet the leader at the Westin Seattle hotel Tuesday morning, and late in the afternoon, activists from Taiwanese, Tibetan and Chinese democracy groups led a demonstration to call attention to their peoples’ struggles.
With passionate shouts and handcrafted signs, the three-pronged afternoon demonstration gathered at Westlake Park and walked toward Westlake Center after about 30 minutes of chants that included, “You’re not welcome here.”
John Chou, a spokesman for People for Democratic Taiwan of the Greater Seattle Area, said activists were angry about the president’s trip and hoped the president and the CEOs he meets considered the activists’ human-rights issues.
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Seattle police on Olive Way formed a line to block demonstrators from getting to the hotel, where the activists had hoped to end their demonstration.
Media from around the globe mixed with downtown pedestrians — many of whom used their phones to document the event — as they wove in and out of the commotion. Although some activists appeared to be strongly against Xi’s presidency, many said his visit is an opportunity to raise awareness of their peoples’ struggles.
“We’re not against his visit, we’re against his policy in Tibet. We’re kind of excited that he’s here, that so we can directly confront him and talk to him,” said Jampa Jorkhang, incoming president of the Tibetan Association of Washington.
Adherents of Falun Gong spiritual practice, who say their fellow believers are subject to persecution by the Chinese government, lined the downtown streets throughout the day, some taking breaks to meditate on cardboard boxes.
Falun Gong practitioner Wang Yun Bo, 37, said earlier in the day he flew from San Francisco for the demonstration.
Wang, speaking Mandarin Chinese, said he left China for the United States on a tourist visa a year ago Tuesday and has applied for asylum here, claiming he was imprisoned for eight years because of his beliefs.
Nearby, Jimmy Leung and other members of a Washington state-based Chinese immigrant association gave Xi a smiling welcome when the president’s motorcade passed the hotel in the morning.
For hours, Los Angeles resident Helen Lee waved banners in front of the hotel in support of the president’s visit.
“We’re here, they’re there,” she said of the protesters. “I really, really want people to believe in China.”
David Leong, 50, was born and raised in Seattle, where his family has lived for more than 100 years, he said. The martial-arts instructor has Chinese heritage but said that wasn’t why he turned out Tuesday.
“Seattle is becoming an international city, and I’m proud of that,” he said. “When a world leader visits Seattle, it’s important to show support, whether the leader is Chinese or Taiwanese or from Africa.”