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breaking news

UPDATE: Woman dead after shooting in suburban Lake Worth neighborhood

EXCLUSIVE: Details of 6 Chinese protesters charged during President Xi visit


At least three of the six people charged with trying to block motorcades last week during China’s president’s visit to Palm Beach County claim that Chinese government entities stole their land, according to a Washington, D.C.-based Chinese human rights group.

“Initiatives for China” office director Daniel Gong said from Washington that he accompanied four of the protesters April 6-7 to Manalapan, where Chinese President Xi Jinping stayed at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa for summits with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.

RELATED: View The Post’s photo gallery of President Trump’s Easter weekend visit

Before Xi’s arrival, Gong said, his group issued a statement saying the four, and two more protesters also there but not arrested, would try to hand Xi a petition “seeking justice and solution to their eviction and land grabbing cases.” It added that “we pledge to continue our petition until it is solved by the Chinese Government.”

Gong said Thursday from Washington that it’s “ancient practice” in China to block vehicles — even, long ago, carriages — to confront leaders about grievances. He said one of those arrested this month in Lantana, Ma Yong Tian, blocked Xi’s vehicle in 2015 when the leader visited the State Department in Washington, D.C. He said Xi directed a staffer to later receive her petition but “nothing happened.”

The Palm Beach Post’s efforts Thursday and Friday to call and email the Chinese Embassy in Washington were unsuccessful.

Chinese leaders have been subject to demonstrations, both for and against, across the world. Last month, a Palm Beach Post reporter on vacation in Australia found several blocks of downtown Sydney lined with demonstrators as China’s number two, Premier Li Keqiang, visited for talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  And in 2008, protests blocked the iconic Olympic torch as it made its way through Asia en route to the games in Beijing.

For years, government seizure of lands has been a major cause of demonstrations and even riots in China, June Teufel Dreyer, a China scholar and a professor of political science at the University of Miami, said Thursday.

“The government will decide they need to build a dam, or divert some water, and people are just forced off their land,” Dreyer said from Coral Gables.

Most famously, construction of the Three Gorges Dam is believed to have forced the abandonment of more than 1,000 cities and towns and displaced as many as 1.2 million people.

Dreyer said she doubts this month’s confrontations will have a significant effect on Xi or his government. But, she said, “at least they (protesters) have shown some people in Palm Beach County this is a problem. The more you draw attention to something, the more you hope it’s going to do something.”

Dreyer also provided The Post documents, in Chinese, that she says indicate pro-China demonstrators in Palm Beach County last week were recruited by Chinese government officials, who provided banners and chartered a bus to the county.

The six who were arrested last week by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies were not pro-government. The sheriff’s office and Initiatives for China identified them as:

Jia Kuo, 34, of New York.Initiative’s Gong said he believes Jia’s father is in prison.

Yuan Jianbin, 49, of Hacienda Heights, Calif. Gong does not have information about him.

Ma Yong Tian, 52 , of Rockville, Md. Gong says Ma’s factory and home in the Jilin Province were seized in 2001 by the Changchun city government and she won a lawsuit but was denied compensation. Her husband and a son also were under house arrest for a while and are forbidden to leave China.

Yang Haihan, 34, of Rowrand Heights, Calif. Another son of Ma, according to Gong.

Zhang Weixue, 65, of New York. Gong says Zhang, from Hunan Province, invested in a hotel at Zhangjiajie, but a Chinese local government demolished it without compensation. 

Wang Chun Yan, 53. Sheriff’s reports listed no address. Gong said he believes Wang lives in the Washington area but did not have other information about her.

The first five were arrested April 6 and Wang the next day.

According to the sheriff’s office, as the motorcade carrying Xi and his staff headed west from the Eau hotel about 2:30 p.m. April 6, Jia and Yuan tried to step onto Ocean Avenue in Manalapan. Deputies warned them not to go into the road, but they advanced, and deputies pushed Yuan out of the way of the motorcade, reports said.

Around 5:30 p.m. April 6, in Lantana, as the motorcade traveled west on Lantana Road near the shopping center just east of Interstate 95, Ma, Yang and Zhang ran into the street, reports said. Ma pointed a “dark object” and sheriff’s Maj. Jeffrey Calise struck her hand with his baton, knocking the object away, a report says. The report doesn’t identify the item but says Calise took Ma to the ground, where she “began to kick and push away” and Calise again struck her in the leg. She then was dragged from traffic, reports said.

Video provided by Daniel Gong shows Yang and Zhang running into traffic and cars swerving. It also shows Calise striking Ma and dragging her off. Photos provided by Gong show the two men in traffic and Ma being taken down to the roadway and later sitting cuffed on a sidewalk.

Around 10:45 a.m. Friday, Wang stepped into Southern Boulevard at Lake Avenue in West Palm Beach as a motorcade transporting Madame Peng Liyuan and first lady Melania Trump to Mar-a-Lago after a visit to the Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. As John O’Keefe, a Jupiter police officer on loan for the detail, called for her to get out the road, some of the vehicles in the motorcade had to swerve around her, the report said.

Ma, Yang and Zhang are charged with obstruction of a roadway and resisting arrest without violence. Jia and Yuan are charged with resisting arrest without violence. Wang is charged with obstruction of a roadway.

Each of the counts is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Because all six were from out of town, rather than receiving a “notice to appear,” they were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail, where all were released either on their own recognizance or after paying small bails.



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