While much of Tacoma prepares to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping on his visit to Lincoln High School on Wednesday, one local group says it will be protesting.
The Vietnamese Community of Tacoma Pierce County plans to carry signs and stand in protest near Lincoln, said Robert Tran, who is coordinating the demonstration.
Tran, who came to Tacoma more than 40 years ago, said his group wants to protest Chinese aggression against Vietnam, both past and present.
One source of tension concerns a group of resource-rich islands in the South China Sea. Rival claims to the islands come from China, Vietnam and other Asian neighbors.
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In the 1970s and 1980s, the islands were the scene of Chinese and Vietnamese military skirmishes, according to the BBC. More recently, the BBC reports, there have been anti-Chinese protests on the streets of Vietnamese cities, and, earlier this year, satellite images show China building an airstrip on reclaimed land in the islands.
In a news release, the Vietnamese Community of Tacoma Pierce County accused Xi of “using Seattle and Tacoma as his beachhead to expand China’s influence abroad, all the while oppressing China’s own people back at home and bullying their neighbors with aggressive maneuverings.”
The statement contains a litany of complaints against China, citing its contribution to global pollution, human rights violations against China’s minorities and what it calls Chinese “weaponizing the Internet.”
“We are calling upon all business interests, political leadership and the general public to boycott Xi Jinping’s visit and to discontinue cooperation with China,” the statement said.
Tran said his group would inform city officials of its protest plans: “We want to follow the rules.”
Tacoma Police Chief Donald Ramsdell said his department is ready for any protesters that show up Wednesday.
“We don’t know to what extent we are going to see protesters, if any at this point in time, based on the information we have,” Ramsdell said. “We are prepared to respond if need be with the resources we have.”
Staff writer Kate Martin contributed to this report.