Even in a country that celebrates free speech, you don’t spontaneously vocalize grievances at state events. Disruptive citizens routinely are pulled out of congressional galleries. And don’t even think about saying something snarky in a presidential rope line.
Still, we marvel at Dr. Wang’s timing, even at what might be recorded as a landmark accomplishment in China’s long march to a freer society. Her outburst came just after Bush, in his prepared remarks, urged Hu to allow Chinese to “speak freely.”
The scene went out live on CNN International, only to be blacked out on the Chinese mainland. Enough might have slipped through, however, to have caused murmurs among Chinese dissidents, any one of whom would have been jailed and even tortured for such an impertinent protest.
Ms. Wang is a gutsy woman, and I have a hard time criticizing her. Instead, I call her protest the education of President Hu:
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.
President Bush is probably the most protested man on earth, not only by people in this country but by countless others all over the world. All President Hu had to do was to continue speaking in the face of this one protester.
Many people believe Ms. Wang’s outburst was done at the inappropriate time. Perhaps it was, but the human rights violations that the Chinese government engages in on a daily basis are horrendous, and I commend this woman for taking a stand. She got both presidents’ attention. Perhaps she got the attention of some folks in China as well even though the Chinese government did its best to censor her.
As for Bush’s apology, it was probably just a polite gesture. I wouldn’t be surprised if President Bush got a bit of a chuckle out of Ms. Wang’s great timing.
Update: Ms. Wang has been charged:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A heckler from the Falun Gong spiritual movement who disrupted a White House appearance by Chinese President Hu Jintao was charged in federal court on Friday with harassing, intimidating or threatening a foreign official.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington said the misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to six months in jail.
The woman, who entered the White House grounds as a reporter, interrupted a formal arrival ceremony between Hu and President George W. Bush on Thursday and shouted: “President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong.”
The embarrassing episode marred the South Lawn event and created a diplomatic stir. Bush personally apologized to Hu for the incident.
No, the embarrassing episode is that this woman is actually facing jail time.
Note: I have been referring to Wenyi Wang as Ms. Wang, when I should have been calling her Dr. Wang.