NEW YORK—For 10 minutes on Sept. 26, a scene more commonly witnessed in the Middle Kingdom surreally played out in a corner of Manhattan’s plush hotel district.
As a motorcade onlookers believed was carrying Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping drove past a street junction on Lexington and 49th at about 2:00 p.m., about a dozen Chinese women and men in light sweaters suddenly dashed from the sidewalk and onto the street.
“Return my property! Give me justice!” several yelled. “My ancestors’ land doesn’t belong to the communists!” Some yelled “Help!”
Signs in English and Chinese read, “Chinese Communist Party, return the property stolen from us!!!” Others pleaded the local government in the coastal metropolis of Shanghai to return their homes and respect human rights.
The men in dark suits weren’t far behind. They lurched forward with big Chinese flags and small American flags. After a brief scrimmage, they subdued several protesters by wrapping them with their red flags.
Fu Yuxia, whose neck was in a brace, stood in the street with her seven-year-old niece. She held a sign asking Xi to stop and meet with the petitioners. It stated, “Listen to us and Solve our Problems!”
Several of the men in dark suits pushed Fu and her niece onto the sidewalk, then surrounded them with their red flags.
Epoch Times photographed the little girl surrounded by aggressive Chinese men with large red flags, as they tried wrapping her and her aunt with them.
When the motorcade was out of earshot, most of the men in suits quickly dispersed and left the protesters. A handful of assailants remained, however, and both sides shouted and tugged at each others’ shirts until New York City police standing nearby broke them up.
One of the petitioners, Li Fangge, spoke with Epoch Times after the incident. She said the protesters were from Shanghai, where they were persecuted by Chinese authorities after their land was forcibly seized from them in the early 2000s. They spent several years seeking compensation from the local government and in Beijing, but were always rebuffed, often violently.
Li and her parents were brutally beaten for petitioning in 2003. Li showed pictures of angry-looking bruises on their arms and thighs from the incident.
The men in the dark suits were led by a Mr. Yang from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, people on the scene claimed.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping was staying at the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue during the final leg of his first state visit to the United States.
Xi spoke at a United Nations session on Sept. 27, a day after the attack on the petitioners, and on Sept. 28 he made his inaugural address to the U.N. General Assembly on its 70th anniversary celebrations.
“China will continue to participate in building world peace,” he said.
Samira Bouaou and Shi Ping contributed to this report.