China condemned the Falun Gong spiritual group as an “anti-China political group” on Tuesday but spared Washington criticism over a heckler from the movement who disrupted Chinese President Hu Jintao’s White House appearance.
Hu’s visit to Washington last Thursday was choreographed to highlight his statesman status and Beijing’s hopes to subdue trade tensions with the United States.
But a follower of Falun Gong — banned as a cult in 1999 — entered the White House grounds as a reporter and yelled at Hu and President Bush as they stood before reporters.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, said on Tuesday that China had made representations to Washington about the embarrassing incident.
But official Chinese anger was focused on Falun Gong, which staged protests against Hu throughout his four-day U.S. visit.
Washington urged to reign in ‘anti-China’ group
“This demonstrates once again that Falun Gong is not only a cult but also an anti-China political organization with base political intentions,” Qin told a regular news briefing.
Falun Gong wanted to wreck China-U.S. relations by any means, Qin said, urging Washington to take concrete and effective measures to rein in its “anti-China” activities.
Sharon Xu, spokeswoman for Falun Gong in Hong Kong, denied the group was “anti-China.”
“I think the world already knows that Falun Gong is a spiritual movement, is a good-natured practice, and it poses no threat to people’s health or mind,” Xu said.
The Chinese Communist Party “has to ask itself why it is the only government that labels Falun Gong as a cult”, she said. “Falun Gong is not against China as a nation or as a country, nor is it against the two countries’ developing relationship.”
Falun Gong originated in China as a spiritual movement based on a series of meditation exercises. But it was banned in 1999 after adherents surrounded the Chinese leadership’s heavily guarded compound in Beijing to demand official recognition.
Since then, Falun Gong has campaigned from abroad against what it says is brutal persecution of followers in China.
Heckler, other gaffes rattle visit
Wang Wenyi, a reporter for The Epoch Times — a New York-based newspaper that supports Falun Gong — joined a crush of journalists at the White House for Hu’s visit. She heckled Hu for almost three minutes, yelling “President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong.”
She was led away by a Secret Service guard for questioning and later charged.
Wang’s action on the South Lawn “has nothing to do with trying to sabotage or hurt the two countries’ relationship”, the Falun Gong spokeswoman said.
“It’s about what the CCP has done to Falun Gong.”
Bush apologized to Hu, but the incident and other gaffes rattled the display of goodwill between the two leaders.
An official announcer for the occasion described Hu’s People’s Republic of China as the “Republic of China” — the official name of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own.
And Bush tugged on Hu’s sleeve, startling the usually prim Chinese leader into a grimace and giving photographers a shot suggesting tensions between them.