Hundreds of people protesting against human rights abuses in China have greeted President Xi Jinping in Seattle, forming the first in what is likely to be a series of demonstrations against China’s leader in his first official visit to the United States.
Many of the protesters who turned out in downtown Seattle on Tuesday are affiliated with the religious group Falun Gong, which says it is persecuted in China.
They waved signs against what they called the country’s systematic theft of prisoners’ organs, among other abuses.
At the same time, a group of pro-Chinese protesters, some of them wearing hats emblazoned with “USA” waved Chinese and US flags and large red cloth signs that read: “Hello President Xi” in Chinese characters.
At one point, supporters attempted to drape a giant flag over a Falun Gong banner that read: “Forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners is not tolerated by heavenly principles,” Reuters reported.
China’s official atheist Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its rule and religious activities must be state-sanctioned.
In Seattle, the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association also asked members to attend the protest downtown “to highlight the repressive policy of Xi in Tibet”, while unaffiliated activists planned to gather at a nearby park to call on China to curb militarisation of the South China Sea.
Xi’s week-long trip will end with an address to the UN General Assembly, but before that, much of his tour will focus on business.
In Seattle, he will meet the top bosses at Boeing, Apple, Microsoft and other firms.
Xi leaves the Seattle area on Thursday for Washington DC, where he will attend a summit with President Barack Obama.
The two leaders are likely to discuss concerns about China’s slowing economy and cooperation on cyber security.