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Protester disrupts Hu speech at White House

The arrival ceremony for Hu Jintao was interrupted by a protester who appealed to President Bush to stop the Chinese president from “persecuting the Falun Gong.”
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The arrival ceremony for Hu Jintao was interrupted by a protester who appealed to President Bush to stop the Chinese president from "persecuting the Falun Gong."

The woman began shouting from the top of a camera stand that had been positioned directly in front of the two leaders so that news photographers could record the arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Secret Service identified her as Wenyi Wang, 47.

She shouted in heavily accented English, "President Bush: Stop him from killing" and, "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."

A Mandarin-speaking cameraman said Wang shouted in Mandarin: "Falun Gong is good. Stop persecuting Falun Gong, Hu Jintao. Your time is over. Evil people will die early."

Bush later addressed the matter when he met with Hu in the Oval Office. “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.

Wang, a senior journalist and photographer working for the New York-based, Falun Gong-affiliated Epoch Times, has covered previous White House events, officials told NBC. They said she followed normal procedures when she and a colleague submitted proper credentials to gain entry to the White House grounds.

Stephen Gregory, a spokesman for the newspaper, identified her as a doctor with a specialty in pathology, a Falun Gong practitioner based in New York.

‘Hugely embarrassing’
Bush, standing next to Hu, leaned over and whispered to Hu, "You're OK," indicating the Chinese leader should proceed with his opening remarks. Hu, who had paused briefly when the shouting began, resumed speaking.

Wang was interviewed and is being charged with disorderly conduct and a federal offense related to intimidating or disrupting a foreign official at an official event, according to NBC News.

"It's hugely embarrassing," said Derek Mitchell, a former Asia adviser at the Defense Department who is now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China "must know that this Bush administration is good at controlling crowds for themselves, and the fact that they couldn't control this is going to play to their worst fears and suspicions about the United States, into mistrust about American intentions toward China."

White House officials told NBC they were aware Wang's newspaper had ties to Falun Gong, but an adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "They had no justification for denying access, no reason to exclude them."

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, contacted for comment on the heckling, said he was too busy to talk.

Wang was waving a banner with the red and yellow colors used by Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement in China. She kept shouting for several minutes before uniformed Secret Service agents made their way to her position at the top of the camera stand. They dragged her off the stand.

A television cameraman standing next to the protester tried momentarily to quiet her by putting his hand in front of her mouth.