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President Xi invisible to protesters, but they remain cheerful

By around 6 on Friday evening, it became clear that neither the Obama nor the Xi motorcades would be passing by the hundreds of demonstrators near the Sunnylands estate who had waited for hours in 110-degree heat.

President Obama and China’s Xi Jinping would not see the signs protesting China’s treatment of Vietnamese fishermen or the pleas for justice from Falun Gong followers. They would not see the man who wore fake chains and had “Free Tibet” inked in Chinese characters on his bare torso.

The two leaders were already secluded at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, where they will hold informal talks through Saturday.

Xi’s supporters, who came by the busload from the Los Angeles area, looked for him elsewhere, figuring their chances were better outside the Chinese president’s hotel in Indian Wells. The night before, they had greeted him with patriotic songs and a sea of red Chinese flags, while Falun Gong protesters occupied a nearby spot.

For the most part, the Sunnylands crowd remained cheerful, turning the occasion into a street-corner rally. After all, those who fled their homelands for political reasons are often appreciative of the right to protest.

“We’re so blessed to be here, even though it’s very hot, compared to my people in Vietnam,” said Krystle Nguyen, 64, of Los Angeles.

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Twitter: @cindychangLA

cindy.chang@latimes.com

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