In San Francisco during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping faced numerous protests from various groups. One demonstrator climbed a flagpole outside the hotel where Xi was scheduled to meet with U.S. CEOs, holding a Free Tibet flag. The protests covered a wide range of causes, including opposition to the Israel-Hamas war and criticism of the global response to climate change.
The day began with a couple hundred protesters obstructing the city streets and entrances to the convention center. However, the focus of the demonstrations shifted throughout the day, with the main highlight being anti- and pro-China protests. At noon, hundreds of critics of Xi marched through downtown, chanting for the freedom of Tibet and Hong Kong. The peaceful group, accompanied by police, blocked a main downtown thoroughfare as they circled the convention center.
Pema Doma, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, expressed confidence that this would be the largest anti-Xi protest during the bilateral talks in the United States during Xi’s reign as China’s dictator. While some protesters lined the route where Xi would pass, television coverage also showed crowds welcoming him, waving Chinese and American flags and displaying posters of both flags together.
Ahead of Xi’s meeting with U.S. CEOs, both supporters and protesters gathered on the street. It was during this time that the flagpole climber made a statement for Free Tibet. As the evening progressed, a couple hundred pro-China supporters dominated the block, singing and flaunting flags.
Non-Chinese causes have also been represented by demonstrators, with some protests spanning across blocks since Sunday. Early on Wednesday, they even formed a human chain that prevented conference attendees from passing through an intersection. Gary Hughes from the advocacy group Biofuelwatch expressed his surprise at the effectiveness of the protests, given their relatively small size.
During the demonstrations, signs could be seen with messages such as “War criminals out of SF” and “From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the US war machine.” While police wore protective helmets, no major clashes were reported. San Francisco took precautions for potential confrontations by setting up metal mesh barriers to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic near the convention center.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated the APEC summit as a national special security event, placing the U.S. Secret Service in charge of coordinating all policing agencies due to concerns about possible disruptions around the summit site, which included road and foot traffic closures.