Bipartisan Commission Asks San Francisco Police to Investigate Violence During APEC Summit

‘The constitutionally-protected right to peacefully protest must be respected.’
Bipartisan Commission Asks San Francisco Police to Investigate Violence During APEC Summit
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) speaks during a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing about “Corporate Complicity: Subsidizing the PRC’s Human Rights Violations” in Washington on July 11, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Frank Fang

A congressional commission is urging the San Francisco Police Department to investigate online videos showing violence committed by pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supporters against human rights activists during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued a statement on Nov. 28, saying they are “outraged by videos showing harassment and assault against human rights advocates” who were in San Francisco to protest against CCP leader Xi Jinping’s trip to the United States and the Chinese regime’s “ongoing human rights abuses.”

“The constitutionally-protected right to peacefully protest must be respected, and law enforcement must step in where peaceful protestors are met with violence,” the lawmakers wrote.

Xi arrived in San Francisco on Nov. 14 and met with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the APEC summit the following day. Violence committed by CCP supporters at the time is now under scrutiny and is the latest example of Beijing’s transnational repression campaign.

“We, the Chairs of the CECC, strongly condemn the reported violence perpetrated against individuals exercising their rights of freedom of expression and assembly in the United States,” the lawmakers added.

“We urge San Francisco County police to review these reports and pursue justice as appropriate.”

In response to an Epoch Times request for comment, Sergeant Kathryn Winters, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), said in an email that the police had “received a number of complaints of violence throughout the [APEC summit] week, and took action to make arrests when we either witnessed attacks or were alerted to attacks in a timely manner.”

“Some of these confrontations occurred outside the view of officers, and officers were not alerted until after the attacks occurred and suspects were no longer present,” she wrote.

“The SFPD continue[s] to investigate all allegations of violence equally. Any assertion that the SFPD treated acts of violence differently based on who the victims or aggressors were is patently false. Any act of violence reported to the SFPD will be investigated thoroughly,” Ms. Winters added.

‘Transnational Repression’

The two lawmakers cited Anna Kwok, executive director of Washington-based advocacy group Hong Kong Democracy Council, as an example of how online intimidation against rights activists started before Xi arrived in San Francisco.
In an X post on Nov. 12, Ms. Kwok wrote that she had been “receiving threats and intimidations from pro-Beijing accounts” since she announced her plan to join a protest in San Francisco against Xi. “They are threatening to ‘bounty hunt’ and encouraging people to ‘drop her unconscious body at the Chinese consulate,’” she added.
Three days later, Ms. Kwok displayed a bloody wound in another X post and complained about pro-Beijing protesters “coming after peaceful activists on our side to actively attack and instigate violence.”
In an X post on Tuesday, Ms. Kwok thanked the two lawmakers for demanding action.

“Our rights to peacefully protest in the United States should not be threatened by pro-Beijing thugs. This is a blatant form of transnational repression that should have no place around the world,” she wrote.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) 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)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) 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)

‘Horrendous Human Rights Record’

“Crowds of Hong Kongers, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other advocacy groups gathered in San Francisco to peacefully demonstrate against Xi’s participation at the APEC summit due to China’s horrendous human rights record,” the lawmakers wrote. “Many reported being attacked by pro-CCP counter-protestors.”

The lawmakers highlighted violence against Tibetans, saying that “a group of Tibetan youth activists claimed they were assaulted and had their banners stolen by pro-CCP demonstrators wearing masks.”

“Tibetan advocate Chemi Lhamo said she was surrounded and harassed for nearly 15 minutes and subjected to hair pulling, physical assault, and the stealing of her cell phone, which was tossed into nearby water, presumably because it contained evidence identifying her assailants,” the lawmakers added.

Over 100 Falun Gong practitioners also held various peaceful protests during Xi’s visit, the Falun Dafa Information Center said in an X post on Nov. 22, adding that there were multiple incidents of CCP supporters vandalizing or obstructing their banners aimed at raising awareness of the communist regime’s ongoing persecution.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice consisting of simple, slow-moving meditation exercises and teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It grew in popularity during the 1990s, with 70 million to 100 million adherents in China by the end of the decade, according to official estimates at the time.

Feeling threatened by its popularity, the CCP under Jiang Zemin launched a systematic elimination campaign in July 1999. Since then, millions have been detained inside prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated, according to the center.
On Nov. 15, a few blocks from the Moscone Center, where many APEC events were held, an unidentified man in his 20s tried to disrupt a demonstration held by Falun Gong adherents by kicking over an audio speaker and attempting to tear down a banner, before attacking a reporter for The Epoch Times’ sister media outlet NTD.

CCP Support

Citing international advocacy group Human Rights in China (HRIC), the two lawmakers said the individuals who committed the violence against anti-CCP protesters “may have ties to the Chinese consulate,” which raised concerns about “official Chinese support for these attacks.”
In a Nov. 21 press release, the HRIC said CCP-affiliated groups were “bussed in from other cities and flown in” from New York City and Los Angeles in groups to welcome Xi.

“A student who traveled to San Francisco to welcome Xi Jinping also said the Chinese consulate paid for flight tickets and hotels for pro-CCP supporters to come from New York City,” it added.

Screenshots of social media conversations circulating online and interviews conducted by The Epoch Times also showed that the Chinese Consulate had paid demonstrators to welcome Xi in San Francisco.
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.