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San Francisco’s Rapid Clean-Up Efforts Ahead of APEC Summit Draw Scrutiny

Published: November 14, 2023
Police officers walk near APEC Summit headquarters on Nov.11, 2023 in downtown San Francisco, California. The city took steps to clean up in advance of the APEC Summit, currently taking place through November 17. (Image: LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

San Francisco’s expedited efforts to clean up the streets ahead of the APEC Summit and a high-profile meeting between Communist China’s leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Biden, has drawn criticism by a number of figures, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to address the issue. 

Ahead of the summit and in a widely shared Fox News clip, Newsom said, “I know folks just say ‘ah, they are just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming into town’ … That’s true, because it’s true.”

He then added, “but it’s also true, for months and months and months, prior to APEC, we’ve been having different conversations.”

San Francisco has made national headlines due to the poor state of the inner city, with drug addicts openly consuming narcotics on the streets, homeless encampments popping up on numerous street corners, widespread property crime, and human feces lying out in the open being a common sight.

On Nov. 11, a day before the summit commenced, the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party posted a video to X featuring its chairman, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), blasting the efforts saying, “For years, San Francisco residents have put up with rampant homelessness, open-air drug use, assaults and feces lined streets,” adding that, “Suddenly, when a genocidal communist dictator comes to town… the streets get cleaned.” 


Mixed feelings among locals

It only took a few days of focused attention to clean up the streets. Homeless encampments were cleared, the tents on Market Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, were removed, and sidewalks littered with feces and drug paraphernalia were cleaned.

“San Francisco feels clean, smells good, and feels MUCH SAFER after this week’s cleanup in preparation of @APEC,” one resident, Alex Lau wrote on X. 

Others questioned why the clean up wasn’t done earlier if it could be accomplished in such a short period of time. 

“So it could have been done all along…just needed a communist dictator to plan a visit…that says a lot,” responded an X user to Lau’s post. 

Another X user from San Francisco commented, “I just can’t. The citizens here are an afterthought. They didn’t do it for us. They did it for the dignitaries,” while another said, “Will be interesting to see how fast it returns to a dystopian hellscape.”

Ian Miles Cheong, a popular poster on X, shared some of the sentiments expressed: “San Francisco is now safe and clean because its leaders want to present a good image to China. Why can’t it be like this every other day of the year?” he wrote.

The 2023 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit — also known as APEC — will host 21 member economies from the Pacific Rim, including U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping.

This year’s summit is being held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and is scheduled to run from Nov. 11 through the 17th.