Rights group says police ignored attacks on protesters by pro-China activists
Police in San Francisco failed to halt street attacks on human rights activists who were beaten by pro-Beijing supporters during the visit last week by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the group Human Rights in China.
Dozens of protesters from the U.S. communities of Chinese, Tibetans and Hong Kong residents were physically assaulted in attacks orchestrated by Chinese government officials, the group said in a statement Monday.
“Unfortunately, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) did little to protect the protesters,” the group said, posting videos of several beatings on the street of the human rights protesters.
Witnesses said San Francisco police were unwilling to step in and break up the attacks by pro-regime supporters, many of them who had gathered along streets holding Chinese flags. Mr. Xi was in San Francisco to attend a summit of Pacific Rim country leaders and hold a high-profile private talk with President Biden.
No arrests of the attackers were reported but one anti-Xi protester, Jie Lijian was arrested, the group said.
Sgt. Kathryn Winters, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department, had no immediate comment on the Human Rights in China allegations. But she said incidents occurred involving members of both sides of the street protests.
“Last week’s brutal attacks on pro-democracy protesters, coordinated by the [Chinese Communist Party] and funded through Chinese consulates, are an outrageous example of Chinese transnational repression that should be investigated and condemned by the U.S. government,” Zhou Fengsuo, director of Human Rights in China.
Mr. Zhou, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were brutally repressed by the government, said he faced similar attacks in the past in San Francisco when he was attacked by “pro-China thugs” and police nearby refused to intervene.
Some recent changes in law enforcement efforts against Chinese government agents have been positive, he said.
“But unfortunately, this most recent event in San Francisco is a return to past decades of appeasement towards the CCP at the expense of the freedom-loving community against the CCP. But we will not be silenced,” Mr. Zhou told The Washington Times.
Authorities in San Francisco said police used pepper spray on protesters after a fight broke out Thursday outside the San Francisco Hyatt Regency hotel where Mr. Xi stayed during the leaders’ meeting. Several people were treated by paramedics before being released and some of those engaged in the clashes fled the area.
The incident involved hundreds of pro-China and anti-communist protesters who held dueling rallies during the Xi visit, often across the street from each other. About 50 police from the San Francisco Police Department and California Highway Patrol divided the opposing groups on the streets.
Human Rights in China called for an investigation into the police handling of the protests and whether police cooperated with any Chinese government groups. According to the group, more than ten people suffered injuries and three were hospitalized from the attacks.
Several anti-regime protesters had their phones stolen while attempting to film the pro-China protesters, the group said.
“These included pro-CCP figures in the Chinese community, including some who are well-known for violence,” the group said.
A YouTube video account from a Chinese student in the United States said many of the groups were organized under the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, a Beijing-funded group. The video said many of the pro-China supporters had their travel costs paid by the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
The Justice Department has accused the Chinese government of engaging in transnational repression in the United States. The activities have involved police and intelligence agents targeting dissidents for harassment and threats.
In April, 40 officers of the Ministry of Public Security, the national police agency, were charged with transnational repression schemes, including harassing Chinese dissidents overseas. The operations involved cases where fake social media accounts were set up to “harass and intimidate” Chinese dissidents.
“China’s Ministry of Public Security used operatives to target people of Chinese descent who had the courage to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party – in one case by covertly spreading propaganda to undermine confidence in our democratic processes and, in another, by suppressing U.S. video conferencing users’ free speech,” said Kurt Ronnow, FBI acting assistant director for the Counterintelligence Division.
“We aren’t going to tolerate [Chinese] repression — its efforts to threaten, harass, and intimidate people — here in the United States,” he said.