US Responds to Violence Against APEC Anti-Chinese Regime Protesters

US Responds to Violence Against APEC Anti-Chinese Regime Protesters
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller speaks during a press briefing at the Department of State in Washington on July 24, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department said it will support freedom of speech and “make clear to other governments” that violence is inappropriate, when asked about violence against critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on U.S. soil.

“We are always concerned about acts of violence. We support freedom of speech in the United States. When we see acts of violence, we make [it] clear to other governments that they’re inappropriate,” Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the State Department, said in a press briefing on Dec. 14.

Mr. Miller was responding to a question from The Epoch Times regarding violence experienced by demonstrators protesting China’s human rights violations during November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, which was attended by CCP leader Xi Jinping.

Anticipating Xi’s arrival on Nov. 14, peaceful protesters gathered around the St. Regis Hotel, where the CCP leader stayed, and other locations in the city. However, the protests were marred by violence, as Xi’s supporters and pro-CCP activists used flagpoles, umbrellas, and other tools to attack those speaking out against the Chinese regime. Multiple protestors were hospitalized.

Some of the protesters alleged that the attackers were CCP operatives and that the violence repeated a pattern of harassment against critics of Beijing over the past couple of years.

“It’s a consistent tactic of the CCP,” Zheng Cunzhu, a member of the local committee of the China Democracy Party in Los Angeles, told The Epoch Times in an interview in November. Mr. Zheng described the attackers as young, tattooed men dressed in black. Pro-CCP activists assaulted at least 40 protesters during APEC, eyewitnesses told The Epoch Times in November.

“They are obviously gangsters. I believe the Chinese Consulate is behind those thugs,” Mr. Zheng said.

The State Department’s response came two days after a press conference hosted by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), during which several of the peaceful protestors recounted the violence against them and fellow protestors during November’s APEC.

Anna Kwok, executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group Hong Kong Democracy Council, said during the conference that she was harassed online after she posted her San Francisco travel plans on X on Nov. 11 inviting the public to join her protests.

“Approximately 12 hours after the post, I started receiving rounds of comments from pro-Beijing accounts that threatened my physical safety,” she said, noting that one comment warned her that she would soon take part in her “last protest.”

While Ms. Kwok was never physically beaten during her stay in San Francisco, other protesters weren’t so lucky.

“For example, Carmen Lau, an exiled [Hong Kong] district counselor, had her hair pulled and was also assaulted at the protest,” she said.

“Kennedy Wong, another member on our team, was pushed to the ground during one of the protests outside of the San Francisco International Airport.”

Ms. Kwok said she’s now concerned about her safety.

“I thought the United States was a safe haven for me to continue my advocacy work, but last month proved me all wrong,” she said.

“Right now, I’m very sorry to say that I no longer feel safe to be in the United States, and I no longer feel safe to continue doing my advocacy work.”

NTD Photo
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) speaks during a hearing about “Corporate Complicity: Subsidizing the PRC’s Human Rights Violations” in Washington on July 11, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who chairs the CECC, said in the press conference that the congressional commission was demanding an investigation to “find out why all of these wonderful people who were peacefully protesting were hit with poles, have scars that now you know will not go away.”

“As I have said many times in the past, something must be done to counter these ever-growing efforts by the CCP to repress opposing voices,” Mr. Smith said, pointing to the legislation that he introduced earlier this year, the Transnational Repression Policy Act (H.R.3654), and its companion bill (S.831) introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

“It is my sincere hope that this bill will be voted on promptly to become law and hold foreign governments accountable for their actions,” Mr. Smith said.

The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Smith’s office for comment but didn’t receive a reply by press time.

Mary Hong and Frank Fang contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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