San Francisco police shoot, kill driver who rammed China's consulate

'Terrified' people flee the building after a man crashes a car into the visa office
By Sun Cheng for RFA Mandarin
2023.10.10
San Francisco police shoot, kill driver who rammed China's consulate People evacuate as security personnel respond to the driver of the car that crashed into the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, Oct. 9, 2023 in this screenshot obtained from social media video.
Sergii/via Reuters

San Francisco police have shot and fatally injured the driver of a car that smashed into the visa office of the Chinese consulate, which described the incident as a “violent attack" that could have killed someone.

Video footage from a bystander at the scene that was shared with Radio Free Asia showed a dark blue Honda at rest after crashing into the visa waiting area, with people fleeing the building and bloodstains on the ground.

Police shot and killed the man who crashed the car into the Chinese consulate near Japantown, the San Francisco Standard reported.

"Police and emergency vehicles swarmed the area around Laguna Street and Geary Boulevard," the paper reported. "The fire department initially said the man had been taken to a hospital with serious injuries, but San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Kathryn Winters said around 6:30 p.m. that he had died."

Bay Area resident Qiu Shi told Radio Free Asia that his friend had been in the visa office at the time.

“When this man drove into the hall, there were more than 20 people there," Qiu said. "She was very close and saw everything very clearly."

"She saw the guy get out of the car after crashing it and get decisively into the back seat."

A San Francisco Police vehicle is parked on the street near the visa office of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Nathan Frandino/Reuters
A San Francisco Police vehicle is parked on the street near the visa office of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Nathan Frandino/Reuters

She told him that police then ran in and that gunshots were fired.

"She is in a terrified state," Qiu said of his friend.

Eyewitness Sergii Molchanov told The Standard that the man shouted "Where's the CCP?", a reference to China's ruling Communist Party, as he got out of the car and was restrained by security guards, after which police came running in and gunshots were heard.

‘Solemn representations’

The Chinese consulate condemned the attack, and made "solemn representations" to the United States to take appropriate action.

"On the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2023, local time, an unidentified person drove a vehicle into the visa hall of our consulate, violently crashing it and posing a serious threat to the lives of staff and others on site," a consular spokesperson said in a statement.

The "violent attack" didn't kill anyone, but caused "serious damage" to property, the spokesperson said.

"The mission severely condemns this violent attack and reserves the right to pursue responsibilities related to the incident," the statement said.

Police officers are seen outside the visa office of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, on Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Laure Andrillon/AFP
Police officers are seen outside the visa office of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, California, on Oct. 9, 2023. Credit: Laure Andrillon/AFP

A State Department spokesperson told Radio Free Asia that the agency's Diplomatic Security Service is monitoring the security situation at the Chinese consulate and investigating the incident with local and federal law enforcement authorities.

"We are committed to addressing this issue, consistent with our obligations under the Vienna Conventions -- relating to safety and security of diplomatic facilities and personnel," the spokesperson said in Washington.

"We condemn all violence perpetrated against foreign diplomatic staff working in the United States," added the spokesperson.

Police issued a notice on X telling people to avoid the area, which was still cordoned off after the incident.

San Francisco police said they were working with the U.S. State Department to investigate, the Standard reported, adding that police did not release the identity of the driver or discuss what might have motivated his actions.

The incident isn't the first to befall the consulate, which was attacked by an arsonist in 2014.

Focus of rights protests

State media pundit Hu Xijin hit out at the level of police protection offered to the diplomatic mission.

"In 2008 it was set on fire. The mayor promised 'appropriate' amount of police protection," Hu wrote. "In 2014 it was set on fire again. U.S. said local police 'is providing 24/7 'coverage'."

"And now it’s rammed by a car. What have U.S. police been doing?" 

The consulate has been a frequent focus of protests over the Chinese Communist Party's human rights record in recent years.

In February, protesters gathered outside the consulate to protest "long-arm" law enforcement by Beijing, in the form of secret police "service stations" on U.S. soil.

Beijing says the stations were set up to provide essential services to Chinese citizens overseas, but the rights group Safeguard Defenders has reported that they are actually used to coerce emigrants into returning home to face criminal charges and to silence dissent abroad.  

And in April 2021, the wife of "disappeared" human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng stood outside the consulate calling on officials to hand over her husband's remains, as she believed he must be dead.

"Gao Zhisheng suffered because he loved China too much," Geng said in a statement to mark the traditional grave-tending festival of Qing Ming. "From this day onwards, I will treat the Chinese Communist Party's consulate, the closest one to my home, as his cemetery."

In 2014, the consulate compound was damaged in an arson attack after a person came out of a van with two buckets of petrol, poured the fuel on the front door of the consulate building and set it on fire.

The consulate called that incident "sabotage of a vile nature." 


Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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