Image: Wenyi Wang
Mannie Garcia  /  AP
Wenyi Wang, center, said Wednesday in Arlington, Va., that she interrupted Chinese President Hu Jintao during his speech at the White House last week to bring attention to abuses against Falun Gong practitioners in China.
updated 4/26/2006 4:58:11 PM ET 2006-04-26T20:58:11

The woman who heckled Chinese President Hu Jintao during a White House ceremony last week says her action was a matter of life and death.

Wang Wenyi said Wednesday she could not pass up an opportunity to confront Hu and President Bush over claims that China is removing organs from living members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and selling them.

China vehemently denies the accusations. The State Department has said it takes the charges seriously but has found no evidence they are true.

“The two national leaders who have the best chance at stopping this were right in front of me,” said Wang, a Falun Gong practitioner. “Where else I could have a chance like this? ... How could I not speak out at that moment? Hu Jintao needs to hear this, for his own sake, for the sake of Chinese people.”

For several minutes during the White House ceremony, Wang screamed in English and Chinese, urging Bush to “stop him (Hu) from killing.” The incident was an embarrassment for the Bush administration, and Bush later apologized to Hu.

Wang, who was admitted to the ceremony as a reporter for the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper The Epoch Times, has been charged in federal court with a misdemeanor of intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing a foreign official. If convicted, she could be jailed for up to six months and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

Falun Gong a cult, Chinese officials say
Chinese officials say Falun Gong, which attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with its mix of traditional Chinese beliefs and slow-motion exercise, is a cult intent on sabotaging ties between Washington and Beijing. Falun Gong was banned on the mainland in 1999 as a threat to public order and communist rule. Thousands of practitioners were detained.

When Wang was asked Wednesday if her outburst at the White House had compromised her status as a reporter, she said: “No matter what kind of title I have ... I consider I’m a human being first. So humanity surpasses everything when you see people being killed.”

Officials for The Epoch Times have said they did not know that Wang was intending to disrupt the White House ceremony.

State Department officials say they have urged China to investigate the organ removal claims and “remain concerned over China’s repression of Falun Gong practitioners.”

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