RANCHO MIRAGE – Protesters gathered Friday afternoon near the Sunnylands estate, hours before President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are expected to arrive for an informal summit.
The Falun Gong spiritual movement, which has been banned by the Chinese government, had a large contingent at Xi’s hotel Thursday and was just beginning to amass shortly after noon at the corner of Bob Hope and Gerald Ford drives in Rancho Mirage.
“Bring Jiang to Justice,” one banner read -- a reference to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, who spearheaded government crackdowns against the group.
Most of the early arrivals were Southern California Vietnamese Americans angry at China’s treatment of Vietnamese fishermen and its incursions into disputed waters in the South China Sea. Even the name of the body of water is in contention -- it should be the Southeast Asia Sea, according to some of the protesters.
With temperatures hovering around 110 degrees, many took refuge in the shade.
Obama should suspend economic ties with “the evil Communist government” until China improves its human rights record, said Carly Huynh of Vietnamese Patriotic Youth Overseas.
Like many in the crowd, Tim Voh of Little Saigon fled Vietnam decades ago when the Communists took over. He and others equate the Chinese government with the current regime in their homeland.
“As long as the USA wants to be the leader of the world, China cannot bully,” Voh said.
Local Chinese Americans who support Xi have gathered outside his hotel, the Indian Wells Hyatt. They peacefully faced off there Thursday night against the Falun Gong, singing Chinese patriotic songs to drown out their rivals’ chanting.