SAN FRANCISCO—Free hotel, free flight, free food: The Chinese Consulate in San Francisco hasn’t been tightfisted when it comes to the first visit to the United States in six years by the leader of Chinese communist regime.
Greeters who were on hand for Xi Jinping’s arrival in San Francisco pocketed hundreds of dollars along with an all-expenses-paid trip that brought some of them from the other side of the United States, according to some participants, observers, and screenshots of social media conversations ahead of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Many pro-Beijing demonstrators donned red caps or uniforms while waving red flags, saturating the blockaded streets with the color closely associated with communism. At least one person—a woman donning a black dress who was eating a boxed lunch while standing with her back against a building wall—was carrying a red tote bag, which suggests that she has ties to the Chinese Consulate in New York, according to a dissident who had trailed them.
There are more clues in the attire, the dissident said.
“Anyone with a red cap came from New York—I followed them from behind,” Qiao Jie told NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times, adding that these people were “hired” for the job, raking in—by her account—as much as $200 a day.
“They are also misled,” she said.
The woman, who also lives in New York, was part of a small group of petitioners holding a banner and staging a demonstration in front of the St. Regis hotel, where Mr. Xi will be staying during the week as he joins the closely watched meeting with President Joe Biden. As the woman spoke, swarms of Beijing supporters drew near, drowning out the petitioners' voices with chants of “welcome.”
Many sources point to money as the motivation for their enthusiasm.
A recording shared with The Epoch Times showed a man from China’s southeastern Fujian Province in his 60s, acknowledging that he was coming to San Francisco at no cost to himself. Screenshots circulating online also show a leader from the Chinese student group—the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the University of Southern California—informing senior association members about the covered trip opportunity that the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles had just announced.
“This event carries significant responsibilities and a glorious mission,” the person wrote in the social media chat group, adding that those who registered would be transported by a van and that no one should travel on their own or act independently during the trip.
Another screenshot, which appears to originate from a Chinese student group, said that anyone who wants to welcome the regime's leader during the APEC gathering would get $100 for each of the three days that they attend.
Ling Fei, who has connections with Chinese associations in New York, confirmed the consulate funding of the trips. A friend of his had originally planned to partake in a store opening event in Brooklyn, but the event was canceled because of the groups going to San Francisco, he told The Epoch Times. The consulate would have these people travel with different groups to avoid drawing attention, he said.
Protesters apparently weren't the only beneficiaries. A reporter from a European media outlet, on condition of anonymity, told The Epoch Times that his colleague in China was sent to San Francisco on the expense of Chinese authorities.
A man wearing a green apron was among several people wheeling over lunch boxes to the protest site on Nov. 14. He was evasive when asked by The Epoch Times whether the lunches were destined for Mr. Xi's supporters.
“Maybe,” he said.
Spotted among those leading the clash with the activists was Chen Shanzhuang, a New York-based Chinese front group leader with close ties to the Chinese Consulate. He has helped to facilitate local events featuring Chinese consular services or advancing the Beijing regime’s narratives.
In March, Mr. Chen was seen leading hundreds of Chinese demonstrators shouting slogans in protest against the visit of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. While he claimed that all of those present at the protest scene “all came on our own initiative,” Taiwan’s intelligence officials have disputed such saying, saying that Chinese consulates in New York and Los Angeles were paying $200 to entice participants.
Yu Dawei, an 18-year-old activist, said that Chinese authorities forcibly tore down his business, and that his grandfather was sent to prison for asserting their rights and died after spending a year there.
“I just hope that everyone can have the opportunity to speak freely,” he told The Epoch Times, as shouts of “Xi Jinping, meet the petitioners” rang in the background. “This is what people want to say.”