Activists Plan Protests Ahead of Chinese President's Mar-a-Lago Summit With Trump

Chinese petitioners say they will do whatever it takes to highlight their complaints against the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Chinese President Xi Jinping extends greetings to Chinese citizens and people around the world during his New Year's speech in Beijing, Dec. 31, 2016.

Chinese rights activists and petitioners based in the U.S. are planning to protest during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Florida for talks with President Donald Trump later this week, in spite of threats of official retaliation against their relatives back home.

After Beijing accepted an invitation from President Donald Trump for Xi to join him for informal talks at his lavish Mar-a-Lago beach resort, Chinese activists in the United States said they will greet the Chinese leader with protests highlighting their grievances against the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Former land protester Zhuang Liehong, who fled Guangdong's rebel village of Wukan after former protest leaders were detained on "bribery" charges, said he plans to wave a placard at Xi's motorcade later this week.

"I plan to set up camp by the side of the road with my banners and a sound system," Zhuang told RFA. "I will carry a placard with the Communist Party flag, as well as a slogan complaining about the way it treats ordinary people, and about the oppression of Wukan villagers."

Zhuang has been a vocal advocate for Wukan's land protests and at times the only conduit of information about life behind a high-level police security cordon following clashes that ended months of peaceful protest last September.

He says that though police and local officials have jailed his father and threatened his mother, he won't be deterred from speaking out during Xi's trip.

"If they think that they can stop my activism here in the U.S. just by threatening my relatives, then they really don't understand my personality," Zhuang, who flung himself in front of Xi's motorcade during the president's state visit to the U.S. in September 2015, told RFA on Monday.

"The more they target my family, the more I will step up my counterattacks," he said, adding that he plans to head to Florida to intercept Xi.

During Xi's visit, the two presidents will discuss "global, regional, and bilateral issues of mutual concern," the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will also attend a dinner in their honor, hosted by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

History of protest

Petitioner Li Huanjun said she is planning to try to halt the president's motorcade for the third time in a row, in protest over her violent forced eviction from her home in Beijing's Fengtai district five years ago.

Liu, a former primary school teacher who first became engaged in rights work during her bitter eviction struggle, has a long history of vocal and conspicuous campaigns against the Chinese government.

She was detained in 2013 for calling on the nation's leaders to reveal details of their wealth, and threw herself in front of the motorcade of President Xi Jinping during his September 2015 state visit to the United States to protest rights violations.

"The second time, I got hurt," Li said. "But I think God protects good people, and will protect me in my fight for justice."

She added: "I long ago stopped worrying about matters of life and death."

But there has been a price for Li's activism. Last weekend, authorities in China beat up her sister Li Meiqing.

"My sister was just leaving the house on Saturday, and she was set upon by a thug at the gates of our residential compound," Li said. "She was also beaten up last Nov. 9 by a person hired by the local village party committee, according to my sister."

Li Meiqing confirmed the more recent beating when contacted by RFA on Monday.

"It was when I was at the bus stop waiting for the bus," she said. "It was a young man wearing a face-mask, very tall, who approached me gradually. I glanced at him but didn't pay much attention."

"Then he walked round in front of my and started lashing out like a mad thing, punching my head," she said. "I barely had time to react before he had run off."

"I have a huge bump on my head," she added.

Attack linked to plans

Li Huanjun said she thinks the attack is linked to her plans to protest later this week.

"I think it's because of my plan to welcome Steamed Bun on April 6 and 7, to intercept him," Li Huanjun said, using a satirical nickname for Xi that has been banned from the Chinese internet. "That makes the authorities really, really mad, so I think that's the reason."

Li said she now has no real source of income.

"I am in dire financial straits right now, " she said. "Maybe I'll just follow Xi Jinping around the world from now on. Whichever country he goes to, I'll go there too."

She said she has been in touch with other U.S.-based petitioners about taking action during the president's visit.

"Everyone has a different view. Some are for it, others against," she said. "But I don't want to tell other people what to do."

Reported by Goh Fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.