Standing on the corner by himself as a sea of pro-Tibetan supporters marched by, Leo Deng felt very alone in San Francisco.
Deng, who arrived in the U.S. four years ago from Haiping, says he has never seen such anti-Chinese sentiment in all his time in San Francisco.
“I feel angry and I feel a little bit alone,” the 22-year-old student says as he shook his head at the offer of a pamphlet being distributed by a coalition of pro-Tibetan groups.
In the most Asian of cities in the U.S. and once the epicentre of the protest movement, these two aspects of San Francisco have converged together this week over the lightning rod issue of China hosting the Olympics.
Tens of thousands of protesters, some in support of China and some against its record on human rights, are expected to crowd the streets of San Francisco today during the Olympic torch relay. Yesterday, it was a well-organized group of Tibetan supporters who took to the streets in advance of the torch relay.
Deng said he and his friends will be out in support of China, arguing the Olympics should have nothing to do with politics.
Former Olympic rower Charles Altekruse, who was forced by the U.S. government to boycott the 1980 Games in Moscow to protest the invasion in Afghanistan, says the torch relay is not about the Olympics.
“It was started in Nazi Germany in 1936 so it really is not about the Olympics and I believe it’s important that we can take a stance before the Games,” said Altekruse, who spoke at the rally. “I’m not for a boycott, but I believe it’s appropriate to use the torch as an opportunity to talk about issues.”
San Francisco is the only stop for the torch in North America.