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Public hopes leaders step out from bubble

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 2:42 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011

Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock has a friendly itinerary suggestion for Chinese President Hu Jintao. Don't leave Hawaii, she says, without seeing Chinatown's statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, known as the "father of modern China."

"I'm sure he will pay homage. In Hawaii it's the No. 1 place," said Shubert-Kwock, Chinatown Business and Community Association president.

Geminiano Arre Jr., president of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, has a must-see, too, for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. "I wish he had a chance," Arre said, "to come over to FilCom."

Some Hawaii residents, especially those with roots in the Asia-Pacific region, are holding out hope that world leaders in town for APEC will get out of Waikiki and visit some of the diverse communities in Hawaii.

Right now, though, the chances of public appearances are slim.

Charles Morrison, East-West Center president, said the gathering of "so many leaders at the same time" is unique in Hawaii's history.

"It stimulates pride in roots, and it also presents Hawaii in such a great light," he said.

He said it appears that some people are fighting killer traffic and high security to get into Waikiki in hopes of seeing world leaders between meetings. At least one group did so to try to see China's president.

Waipahu High School student Ramonchito Calimag, who is from the Philippines, is volunteering at the Hawai'i Convention Center this week for APEC and said he hoped he would see the Philippine president.

"I'm very excited," he said.

Who else was he looking for? President Barack Obama.

Saori Furuya, a Japanese student at the University of Hawaii, was volunteering at the Sheraton Waikiki, said "catching a glimpse" of Obama was on her must-do list, too. "Also," she said, "the Chinese president."

Reuben Wong, a member and past president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said there is plenty of pride about China's president visiting the islands in the Chinese community. But there is also hope about its potential long-term benefits to Hawaii as a destination for Chinese tourists.

"The Chinese pride is great," Wong said, "but the fact that it's good for tourism from China is one of the biggest potentials for Hawaii." He said the Chinese president's visit broadcasts that Hawaii "must be a good place."

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Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock

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