Visitors to the recent Open House event at the Florida Splendid China theme park in Kissimmee, Florida were greeted at the main gate on Formosa Gardens Blvd by flag waving, sign toting demonstrators. The occasion was a Travel and Tourism Fair, put on by a visiting Chinese government delegation. The view from outside the theme park appeared like most previous demonstrations, however, there were differences.
For instance, Splendid China's parking lot was almost half-full and considering that the price of admission was free to the entire theme park (when thousands attend DisneyWorld only two miles away each day), it must have been a huge disappointment. Not to say that the traffic into the park was slow, it was constant; cars filled with people were leaving at about the same rate as cars were arriving and a majority of those passing by honked horns or waved in agreement with the demonstrators. In the two hours that demonstrators stood at the main gate of Florida Splendid China, eight cars were counted as turning around and leaving before entering the park, even with free admission.
Demonstrators also detected the large white van with Georgia tags that made more than a few passes with video cameras. On the way back to the vehicles, the people in the van stopped to take more pictures and it was quickly apparent that they only spoke Chinese. This behavior has been noticed on previous occasions but that was a few years ago, before money problems eliminated the security staff. As mentioned in the past, Ministry of State Security agents (Chinese government equivalent to the US FBI, without the oversight) have been posted to Splendid China with a nominal duty to keep an eye on the performers and other undiscussed activities. It was clear that they had returned, the only questions being, will they stay or are they attached to the Chinese government Travel and Tourism Tour ?
One of the high points of the demonstration was during the arrival of the Chinese government delegation in their four large buses. As the demonstrators chanted, 'Shame On China', 'Free East Turkestan', 'Free Tibet', 'Free Inner Mongolia' and 'One Taiwan - One China,' and waved to passing vehicles, the Chinese government officials smiled back and waved also, at least until they saw the flags of Tibet, East Turkestan and the Inner Mongolia People's Party.
Considering the 'Open House' applied to everyone, an activist entered Splendid China to have a look around. Compared to previous visits, the park was in better shape, but many of the figurines were either missing or broken. Another item of note is that some of the exhibits have been repainted, although the original color schemes have been abandoned and on some exhibits, the recent summer rains have caused the paint to run. The two people outside the park taking pictures were only a slight indication of the strong security presence within Splendid China. Whether they were on hand to prevent defections of the Dance and Acrobat Troupe or available to quell any riotous display, there were a great many individuals that were just standing around, examining passersby and avoiding eye-to-eye contact. Since there were no representatives from the local constabulary (Osceola Sheriff's Office), we assume that they felt confident in handling any contingency.
Another notable point that almost escaped notice was the replacement of Mr. Cao, the previous President of Florida Splendid China. As mentioned in the recent Florida Trend magazine article (June 2001), Mr. Cao took over from Mr. Sunny Yang. Mr. Yang is now under house arrest in the PRC on corruption and bribery charges after the failed sale of Chinese government holdings in Central Florida. We can only guess that Mr. Cao was not replaced because 'he did not speak English' as mentioned in the Orlando Business Journal, but maybe due to some statements in the Florida Trend magazine article. Perhaps Mr. Cao should have checked with his bosses before he became the first Splendid China President to acknowledge that they are owned and operated by the Chinese government. His admission that the park currently uses their performers for groundskeeping chores probably also landed him in some hot water. Two of those performers are aged ten and twelve years old.
After two fun filled hours of a non-violent, legal demonstration that brought the truth to Splendid China Blvd., those attending casually walked back to their vehicles. Far from being a chore, the frequent demonstrations (they occur about every two months on average), are an exciting way to voice our concerns about the Chinese Communist government owned and operated propaganda theme park.
We will be back...