LOS ANGELES—The visit by PRC Vice Chair Xi Jinping to Los Angeles, the last stop on Xi’s trip to the United States, left protesters and members of the media complaining about being denied access to the presumptive next leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Hundreds of protesters—Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Taiwanese, Uighurs, and others with grievances against the Chinese regime—gathered peacefully to confront Xi. But events were arranged so that the protesters never got their chance.
The Los Angeles city council had approved protest permits for locations where the protesters gathered on Feb 16. At the last minute, however, the venue was changed, leaving no time for the hundreds of participants to pack up and move to another location or to get permits.
Later that day, the motorcade was apparently routed to avoid visibility of the protesters, when Mr Xi’s entourage arrived at the JW Marriott Hotel for further meetings.
The protesters were denied any opportunity to petition their grievances directly to the CCP official.
Press Access Limited
A media event held by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a limited number of reporters in attendance.
A police officer with access to the event commented that few reporters were allowed to attend the event, as did a reporter leaving it.
When The Epoch Times became aware of Mayor Villaraigosa’s event, an immediate call was made to the mayor’s press office to obtain press credentials to attend.
The Epoch Times was told to call the PRC Consulate for press credentials.
A recorded message at the consulate asked that the reporter provide contact information and the purpose of the call. The phone call was not returned.
Although the consulate determined who attended the event, the mayor’s office took responsibility for the decisions made, according to police at the scene. An Epoch Times reporter attended the mayor’s media event anyway, but was denied entry by the police, “because you are not approved by the mayor’s office.”
Tsering, from the Tibetan group of protesters, said the actions by the LA authorities in restricting access to Xi were worrying.
“I fear that we are undermining one of the greatest freedoms we have,” Mr. Tsering said regarding press coverage of the protest events.
“It [press freedom] gives us a fair report on events and is a check on government. I am really disappointed with how our government [is handling things], especially now, since some of the critical reporters are not allowed to participate.
“Are we really putting other things ahead of human rights? This is terrible.”
Some have speculated the LA officials’ response to the protesters and independent press was economically motivated. The LA entertainment industry is pushing to expand its market into China, while both the State of California and the city of Los Angeles are looking for financial support for various local government and private sector projects or services.
“America has been looked up to because of its freedoms of speech and the press. Now, look at what’s happening,” Tsering said.