Chinese officials cover up anti-Beijing placards in San Francisco as Xi Jinping arrives for Apec summit

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Protestors and supporters of Chinese leader Xi Jinping clashed at San Francisco’s international airport on Tuesday as he arrived for a much-anticipated meeting with Joe Biden, the US president.

Ahead of their sit-down, the Californian city, where one-fifth of the population has Chinese roots, has become a magnet for dissident groups protesting human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

It has also drawn fans of the Chinese president, who have greeted his arrival with balloons, banners and megaphones belting out patriotic messages.

Mr Xi was shielded from the skirmishes and human rights chants by a heavy police presence as he was greeted on the airport tarmac by a high-level welcoming party including State Governor Gavin Newsom, the city mayor and US ambassador to Beijing.

The Chinese president’s meeting with Mr Biden on Wednesday, their first in a year, is an attempt to dial down tensions over export controls, the future of Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Activists, who have gathered in San Francisco in the run up to this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, have appealed to the White House to also raise the oppression of the Uyghur and Tibetan minorities and Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong during the bilateral talks.

“I hope the US government will not put aside human rights issues in order to talk with the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] about economic development, climate change and other issues,” Wu Shaoping, a US-based lawyer told Voice of America.

The San Francisco Standard reported that hundreds of pro-China demonstrators, as well as red Chinese flags, lined the streets leading up to the St Regis, the luxury hotel that will host Mr Xi.
It said that anti-communist party protestors had also gathered before his arrival but were blockaded and dispersed by the police. Officials also reportedly removed some protest banners.

The Taiwanese media said its journalists were harassed while trying to film the outside of the hotel, reporting that a man speaking Mandarin ordered them to leave and delete their photographs and footage.

Meanwhile, some activists said they had been threatened online.

“Since announcing my arrival in San Francisco for this Wednesday’s protest against Xi, I have been receiving threats and intimidations from pro-Beijing accounts. They are threatening to “bounty hunt” and encouraging people to “drop her unconscious body at the Chinese consulate”,” said Anna Kwok, from the Hong Kong Democracy Council US on Twitter.

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