Peng Liyuan

Peng a lady left waiting as Michelle stays at home

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 8:46am

When the presidents of China and the United States had their first encounter in the sprawling grounds of the Sunnylands diplomatic retreat in California, first lady Peng Liyuan had to make her own plans because Michelle Obama was with her daughters in Washington.

Greeted by museum officials and California Governor Jerry Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, Peng was given a private tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this autumn.

At Sunnylands, Xi and Obama gave somewhat cheesy smiles before their meeting, but both emerged looking solemn and tired three hours later to hold a news conference.

Xi and his wife were staying at a nearby hotel.

Professor Pang Zhongying, a specialist in international relations at Renmin University, said it was "too early to draw any conclusion about the atmosphere of the summit because they still have a second round of meetings to come".

Outside the ranch, a few hundred protesters gathered as the two leaders sat down for talks.

Up to 200 Falun Gong members gathered outside the estate demanded that Obama press Xi over the alleged persecution of the religious sect.

Fifty 50 pro-Tibet protesters also voiced their objections.

"China get out of Tibet," they chanted during a brief march for the cameras.

One protester was wearing a giant papier-mache Xi head.

Vietnamese protesters were also awaiting the leaders' arrival.

Organisers said they expected more protesters to turn up ahead of a planned candlelight vigil last night.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse