Slowdown on Splendid China Boulevard
An account of the protest on December 17, 1995
The protest had been set for high noon at the main gate of Florida Splendid China in Kissimmee, Florida, just a few miles from the main entrance to Walt Disney World. People were coming from as far away as Maryland, Georgia and from the east and west coasts of Florida to attend the demonstration to commemorate the second anniversary of the opening of the Chinese Communist owned and operated theme park.
Almost like clockwork, the protesters arrived just before noon and parked in the new "Formosa Gardens" shopping center that now is on the corner of the Formosa Gardens Blvd. and US-192. It is ironic that the new shopping center's name and road contain a reference to the democratic Republic of China.
After getting out the Tibetan National Flags, protest banners, signs and brochures, the protesters cheerfully walked the short distance to the main gate. Many cries of "China Out of Tibet" and "Free Tibet" were heard all the way to the main gate. Passing motorists honked horns in solidarity with the protesters.
Just as the protesters arrived at the main gate, a white late model car with a Florida Splendid China decal, stopped and a young woman got out and took pictures of all the protesters; this included close-ups of some of the protesters who posed as requested for a group shot. Panoramic shots of the entire protest were taken as the other protesters had spread out across the median and down Formosa Gardens Blvd. for about a quarter mile. The road leading into the park, Splendid China Blvd., was deserted except for her car.
The protesters identified themselves as members of Citizens Against Backyard Communism and gave their names. The protesters encouraged her to take pictures again on the tenth of March 1996, when they would be returning to celebrate Tibetan Uprising Day, as has been done for the last two years. This employee of the theme park accepted the protest literature and said she would read it carefully, although she wouldn't respond to questions about the protester's letters.
After the whirlwind of activity caused by their arrival, the protesters settled into their places and maintained an air of dignity while handing out leaflets to passing motorists or speaking with those who wished to stop. Many persons stopped to take the leaflets and some even appeared to be willing to distribute them inside the park.
Very soon however, the protesters were to encounter the security forces of Florida Splendid China.
At around 1230, the security forces were called out and a comical golf-cart labeled 'EMT' took up a position across from the main gate to monitor the protest activities. Radio traffic to this individual was constant and he had many visitors that came out to see him in other un-labeled golf-carts.
The security forces inside the park were much better at hiding this time and were not seen running across the tops of the exhibits, or continually running up and down the sidewalks in golf-carts, or leering at the protesters from behind the walls of the theme park.
At around 1PM, an Osceola County sheriff's deputy was sent to cruise the scene, he left without incident. The non-violent, legal approach taken by the protesters from Citizens Against Backyard Communism has provided no opportunity for law-enforcement officials to be upset or concerned.
Another notable point were the two videographers that passed the protesters at least twice, taking pictures of all of the protesters. The appearance of these fellows was quite sudden and unannounced; therefore, the identity of these individuals is unknown.
The protest lasted for two hours in the hot December sun, all the time the protesters maintained their awareness of the gravity of the situation; people in occupied areas such as Tibet, Eastern Turkestan, or Inner Mongolia would be interrogated, beaten, tortured or sentenced to long prison terms for the same activities. Given the deprivation of rights and freedoms that the people under Chinese Communist domination have suffered, it seemed a small sacrifice for these protesters.
From the protester's side, the protest was a success. Demonstration attendance had soared 600 % from the year before and hundreds of leaflets were distributed, many inside the park itself.
From the other side, it appears that the demonstrations are taking their toll. The once busy traffic down Splendid China Blvd into the park was dramatically reduced according to estimates compiled by Citizens Against Backyard Communism. Fewer vehicles went into the park, and some people that live near the park(a vast majority of the traffic), stopped to chat, asked for more information and wanted to know how to help Citizens Against Backyard Communism.
A British couple, who stopped and talked was quite interested in the demonstration, they said they would definitely write a letter to Mr. Ma of Splendid China and demand the immediate removal of the Potala Palace exhibit.
As one protester quipped, "The decline in business is evident as compared to other years, the deep pockets of the Chinese Communist Party are what is keeping them open."
Citizens Against Backyard Communism stated that they regretted any financial loss incurred by the theme park because of their protest, but quickly added that the complete refusal by the park to answer their correspondence or meet with them was one reason for the protests.
The demonstration ended with flour offerings and cries of Lha Gyul Lo !
(Victory to the Gods!) A traditional Tibetan religious ceremony.
Citizens Against Backyard Communism is a group of interested individuals devoted to the non-violent and legal removal of religious and minority exhibits from the Communist Chinese government owned and controlled theme park known as Florida Splendid China in Kissimmee, Fla.