President Hu Jintao was heckled at the White House arrival ceremony today, forcing President Bush to apologize.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A heckler from the Falun Gong spiritual movement, who entered White House grounds as a reporter, interrupted a formal arrival ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday, prompting President George W. Bush to apologize to his guest.
After being welcomed by Bush, the Chinese president was just beginning his response when a woman, who had been allowed into the press section, started shouting. She was escorted away by a uniformed U.S. guard.
“President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong,” the woman yelled. U.S. officials later identified her as Wang Wenyi, 47, a reporter with The Epoch Times, an English-language publication strongly supportive of the meditation movement that is banned in China.
“This was unfortunate and I’m sorry this happened,” Bush told Hu, according to Dennis Wilder, a senior official with the National Security Council.
“From time to time the Chinese authorities do disrupt CNN’s signal into mainland China,” CNNi spokesman Nigel Pritchard tells NewsBusters. “It happens every so often.”
Pritchard declined to say whether CNN protests such acts of censorship to government officials. “I’m not going to discuss my or CNN’s coversations with the Chinese government,” he said. The network does not make public protests against such censorship, according to Pritchard.
Drudge is reporting that Wenyi Wang, Hu’s heckler, was charged with disorderly conduct and intimidating a foreign official. She is still in custody.
Update: More information on the apology:
Chinese leaders place high importance on protocol and symbolism, and Bush moved promptly to deal with the protest on the lawn. Once they reached the Oval Office, Bush apologized to his guest.
“He just said this was unfortunate and I’m sorry it happened,” said Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff.
Hu was gracious in accepting Bush’s apology, Wilder said. The two leaders moved on in their talks and it was not mentioned again in several hours of meetings. In what the White House described as a sign of their friendship, Hu and Bush sat next to each other at the luncheon _ a departure from traditional protocol that would have them at different tables.
White House officials have worked with Chinese counterparts for months on every detail of Hu’s visit. “I’m not going to stand here and tell you that they were at ease with this situation,” Wilder said. “But I would be extremely surprised if the Chinese blame us for this.” He said it was “a momentary blip.”
President Hu got a lesson on this thing called free speech:
CHINA’S President suffered the embarrassment of being heckled for more than a minute on the White House lawn yesterday by a protester who accused him of persecution.
The arrival ceremony for Hu Jintao was interrupted by a woman from the banned Falun Gong religious movement. She began shouting from a camera stand directly in front of President Bush and his guest.
“President Bush, stop him from killing,” she shouted. “Stop persecuting the Falun Gong . . . President Hu, your days are numbered. No more time for China’s ruling party.” The incident took place immediately after Mr Bush urged President Hu to allow Chinese to “speak freely”.
The Chinese leader, unaccustomed to such public protests, stopped speaking briefly until Mr Bush lent over and reassured him. Later Mr Bush personally apologised for the incident.
So, Ms. Wang was arrested for doing what Bush recommended. And what’s with the “intimidating a foreign official” charge? How ridiculous.