Lawmakers Press DOJ for Answers on CCP Actors Assaulting Demonstrators in San Francisco

Lawmakers Press DOJ for Answers on CCP Actors Assaulting Demonstrators in San Francisco
Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (R-Ill.) (R) speaks as Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) (L) listens during a press conference with members of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington on Nov. 15, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

The leaders of a congressional committee on China are investigating violence committed by pro-Beijing demonstrators in San Francisco during Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping’s recent visit, and are requesting a briefing from the Department of Justice.

In a Nov. 29 letter to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chair and ranking member of the House Select Committee on the CCP, expressed their outrage at reports of CCP-aligned actors violently assaulting peaceful pro-democracy protesters on U.S. soil.

Their letter laid out reports of the violence, including how some protesters were “confronted by Xi’s supporters wielding … metal rods, flagpoles, closed umbrellas, and pepper spray.”

Mr. Xi arrived in San Francisco on Nov. 14 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Many chose to use his visit as a platform to protest against China’s human rights violations, but they ended up having to deal with attacks from Mr. Xi’s supporters and pro-CCP demonstrators. The latest violence is another example of the CCP’s transnational repression campaign.

“This is just one of many examples of CCP-aligned actors attempting to intimidate, silence, and harm dissidents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) living in the United States,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers said there were up to 15 pro-democracy protesters who “were harmed by Xi supporters” since the summit. They added, “During the protests, pro-Xi actors assaulted Chinese, Hongkonger, and Tibetan dissidents, including a knife attack, the use of pepper spray, and other forms of intimidation and harassment.”

Zhang Kaiyu near the San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 17, 2023. (Courtesy of Zhang Kaiyu)
Zhang Kaiyu near the San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 17, 2023. (Courtesy of Zhang Kaiyu)
One of the protesters who was assaulted by pro-Beijing demonstrators was 51-year-old Zhang Kaiyu, who was injured on Nov. 17 after leaving a protest near the San Francisco International Airport. That day, he received medical treatment at the emergency room.
On Nov. 29, Mr. Zhang went to the South San Francisco Police Department to follow up on his case. Later, in an interview with The Epoch Times’ sister media outlet NTD, he said the attack against him made him feel like he was back in China, not living in the United States.
“They [the CCP] can do whatever they want, completely oppressing opposition voices in the United States. They can have thugs threaten us and attack us, to prevent us from speaking out. It makes me feel like I am still in China, not in the United States, for it is still not safe here,” Mr. Zhang said.

‘Plainclothes Agents’

Jason Blair, an NTD reporter, was also attacked on Nov. 15, while he was covering protests a few blocks from Moscone Center, where many APEC events were held. A man in his 20s tried to disrupt a demonstration before taking a swing at Mr. Blair, who was filming the attacker with his phone at the time.

“During the summit, protest organizers reported being followed on the streets of San Francisco by plainclothes agents believed to have been dispatched from the Chinese consulate,” the lawmakers wrote. “In particular, Jie Lijian, a Chinese dissident and organizer of the protest, said that he and fellow activists were followed by a group of five to six people who appeared to be plainclothes police or military officers in civilian clothing, and who he believes to be PRC agents.”

Screenshots of social media conversations circulating online and interviews conducted by The Epoch Times showed that the Chinese Consulate had paid demonstrators to welcome Xi in San Francisco.

The lawmakers also noted that pro-democracy protesters “began receiving threats of violence on social media by supporters of Xi” before the CCP leader arrived in San Francisco.

One example involves Anna Kwok, executive director of Washington-based advocacy group Hong Kong Democracy Council. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Nov. 12, she said she had been receiving “threats and intimidations [sic] from pro-Beijing accounts” since she announced her plan to join an anti-Xi protest in San Francisco. “They are threatening to ‘bounty hunt’ and encouraging people to ‘drop her unconscious body at the Chinese consulate,’” she added.

On Nov. 30, Ms. Kwok took to X to thank the Select Committee on the CCP for “demanding actions” from the DOJ. She added, “The violent assault and harassment of peaceful protests on American soil reeks of transnational repression.”

“Over the last decade, we have repeatedly seen the threats that the CCP poses to U.S.-based people who dare speak out against Xi Jinping, the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang, cultural genocide against Tibetans, and other human rights abuses in the PRC,” the lawmakers added. “Any assault on the right to free speech and assembly of U.S. residents and visitors is unacceptable.”

The lawmakers requested a briefing from Ms. Clarke by Dec. 13.

On Nov. 28, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, issued a statement urging the San Francisco Police Department to investigate the violence.
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.