UPDATE: Arrivals of Trump, Xi draw fans, traffic, protests, 5 arrests


Pomp, protests, arrests and traffic jams greeted the leaders of the United States and China Thursday in Palm Beach County.

As Chinese President Xi Jinpingarrived Thursday afternoon for meetings with President Donald Trump, three people were arrested on obstruction charges when they tried to run into, or in front of, the motorcade bringing Xi from Palm Beach International Airport to the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa in Manalapan, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

The arrests came as Chinese in Manalapan protested that government’s treatment of religious minorities, and nearby, Vietnamese denounced China’s influence in that country.

Authorities did not report any issues when Air Force One landed a short time later and Trump traveled to his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound, where he was to dine with Xi Thursday night and hold additional talks today before Xi departs. Trump is to leave for Washington on Sunday.

Both motorcades Thursday had traveled east on Southern Boulevard to State Road A1A in Palm Beach before Xi headed south to Manalapan. Palm Beach police reported no incidents, although they did confiscate some gasoline and a generator that protesters were using to power their sound system.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Presidential summit in Palm Beach

The Sheriff’s Office arrested five individuals on charges ranging from obstruction of a roadway to resisting arrest. They are Kuo Jia, 34; Jianbin Yuan, 49, of California; Young Tian Ma, 52; Weixue Zhang, 63; and Haihan Yang, 34. Hometowns for all five were not available Thursday evening. It’s unclear whether all were arrested at the same location.

One of the protesters was Li Huanjun, a human rights activist in China who was arrested in 2013 in Beijing and who fled to Washington in 2015, according to reports. Before Xi arrived, Li had said through interpreters that she planned to stand in front of Xi’s car, something she said she has done in the past. A colleague of hers was twice detained by authorities at the scene on Thursday. Li was not among the five arrested, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

RELATED: See a video of Chinese protester Li Huanjun discuss her opposition to Xi

On Thursday morning, outside the Eau resort, the east end of East Ocean Avenue was a sea of bright colors. Hundreds formed at the Plaza Del Mar on East Ocean before 8 a.m., waving banners and shouting through bullhorns. Welcomers of the Chinese leader wore red shirts, protesters yellow. Hands held both the Stars and Stripes and red Chinese flags.

Some of the red T-shirts read “USA China 4-6-2017.” Protesters’ signs read: “Free all political prisoners now,” “Falun Dafa is good,” “Free Tibet now,” and “the Chinese communist party is gangsters, mafia and evil!”

As crowds grew, so did the contingent of deputies, from Palm Beach and on loan from Broward to help with the overwhelming logistics of hosting two world leaders. Deputies did move some demonstrators to the sidewalk after businesses at Plaza Del Mar complained.

Winnie Xing, who moved about 15 years ago from the southeast China city of Shenyang, and who owns Sterling Nails in Fort Lauderdale, shut down her shop and brought her employees to welcome Xi.

“For us, it’s very exciting and we’re really looking forward to see our president. We love our country,” she said.

Many protesters were associated with Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, a religious group that claims the Chinese government is persecuting it in that country.

Mixed in with the Chinese: opponents and supporters of the president.

One motorist westbound on Ocean Avenue stopped her car right in traffic, threw open her driver’s door, and whipped out her cellphone to record the unusual scene.

Milton Baum, 97, a World War II veteran who lives in the Carlisle senior living center just west of A1A, had come outside to watch.

“I think it’s wonderful. I think we should be very, very good friends with the Chinese,” he said.

Leslie Dreier, who lives just north of the Eau on A1A, has lived off and on in Palm Beach County since the 1960s. He remembers a side street in Palm Beach where, in the early 1960s, a fellow named John Kennedy often stayed in a family compound. The security — and mystique — was much lower then, he said.

“That was more like your neighbor happens to have a job; he’s president.”

Earlier, on the West Palm Beach mainland, pro-China demonstrators tussled with ethnic Vietnamese protesting what they called China’s “bullying” of that country and its expansion in southeast Asia, along with what they called a poor record on both human rights and the environment.

About 10 a.m., hundreds of Vietnamese nationals had begun gathering in front of the Publix on Southern Boulevard west of Dixie Highway; they later marched east, stopping on Flagler Drive. About 11 a.m., nearly 40 Xi supporters arrived, sparking shouting and jostling. One Vietnamese woman stood inches from Chinese supporters, using a megaphone to shout “Red China, go to hell,” and remarks far stronger. At one point, Vietnamese protesters brought in a loudspeaker in an attempt to drown out the Chinese.

Tien Nguyen, of Tampa, who escaped from Vietnam by boat when he was 15, said he was upset to see the “Chinese sympathizers.” He said his father, a former South Vietnamese soldier, was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, and seeing the flag of their ally, China, “brings back a lot of bad memories.”

At Bingham Island, on the Palm Beach side of the Intracoastal Waterway and a few hundred yards west of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, a line of cars stretched west on Southern; many would be turned around. Also on Bingham, numerous people whose shirts read Falun Dafa sat in lotus positions, their hands raised. Nearby, police stood silently, giving the meditating people their space.

Staff writers George Bennett and Kristina Webb, staff photographer Lannis Waters and Palm Beach Daily News staff writer Eleanor Roy contributed to this story.

Staff writers George Bennett and Kristina Webb, staff photographer Lannis Waters and Palm Beach Daily News staff writer Eleanor Roy contributed to this story.

Staff writers George Bennett and Kristina Webb, staff photographer Lannis Waters and Palm Beach Daily News staff writer Eleanor Roy contributed to this story.



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