Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"...the freedom to buy, and to sell, and to produce..."

President Bush, introducing President Hu of the People's Republic of China during a ceremony on the White House lawn:

(From the White House transcript; emphasis added)

PRESIDENT BUSH: As the relationship between our two nations grows and matures, we can be candid about our disagreements. I'll continue to discuss with President Hu the importance of respecting human rights and freedoms of the Chinese people. China has become successful because the Chinese people are experience the freedom to buy, and to sell, and to produce -- and China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship .

The United States will also be candid about our policy toward Taiwan. The United States maintains our one China policy based on the three communiqu├ęs and the Taiwan Relations Act. We oppose unilateral changes in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side, and we urge all parties to avoid confrontational or provocative acts. And we believe the future of Taiwan should be resolved peacefully. The United States and China will continue to build on our common interests; we will address our differences in a spirit of mutual respect. We have made progress in building a relationship that is candid and cooperative -- and President Hu's visit will further that progress.

And so, Mr. President, welcome to the White House. We're really glad you're here. I'm looking forward to our meetings, and I'm so thrilled to welcome Madam Liu, as well. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT HU: (As translated.) President George W. Bush, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. I'm glad to visit the United States in the lovely season of spring, at your invitation, Mr. President. I wish to convey to the great American people the warm greetings and best wishes of the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

I have come to enhance dialogues, expand common ground, deepen mutual trust and cooperation, and to promote the all-around growth of constructive and cooperative China-U.S. relations in the 21st century -- (audience interruption)

PRESIDENT BUSH: You're okay.

What was the "audience interruption"? CNN:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a surprise outburst that cast a diplomatic shadow, a screaming protester confronted President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao and interrupted the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn Thursday. Bush later apologized to the Chinese leader.

"President Bush, stop him from killing," the woman shouted, to the surprise of hundreds of guests spread across the lawn on a sunny, warm day. "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong" -- a banned religious movement in China.

Standing beside Bush, Hu had just begun his opening remarks when the woman started yelling in Chinese and English. Bush leaned over and whispered to Hu, "You're OK," indicating the Chinese leader should proceed.

Who was this protesting woman?

From Dana Milbank at the Washington Post:

If only the White House hadn't given press credentials to a Falun Gong activist who five years ago heckled Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, in Malta. Sure enough, 90 seconds into Hu's speech on the South Lawn, the woman started shrieking, "President Hu, your days are numbered!" and "President Bush, stop him from killing!"

Stratfor has even more:

Wang Wenyi, a Chinese-American doctor who has written for the Falun Gong-related Epoch Times and was a main speaker at a March 27 Falun Gong rally in Lafayette Park near the White House, was whisked away by security personnel -- but only after she had shouted at Hu for several minutes from the press area, calling for him to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and to stop killing Chinese

Falun Gong. Does the name ring a bell?

The Chinese government condemns the spiritual movement Falun Gong as a cult. China began a crackdown on the group in 1999 . The Epoch Times, which disavowed the protest, is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement.

But-- who would guess that she might do something here? Wouldn't the White House need some sort of protocol-- like a security check, or a background search, or, well, something-- already in place to protect the President? Oh, right.

Wang apparently was granted access to the press area because of her affiliation with the Epoch Times, in order to report on Hu's arrival, and government officials told news media she had been on the White House grounds before without causing problems. While that may be the case, there was something odd about her admittance to the grounds for Hu's arrival.

Thursday's disruption was not the first time Wang had confronted a Chinese president about the Falun Gong. On July 25, 2001, she managed to slip through a security cordon surrounding then-President Jiang Zemin, while he was taking an unscheduled tour of Mdina on a visit to Malta. Wang came face to face with Jiang and confronted him over crackdowns and killings of Falun Gong practitioners, before security officers pulled her away. In that incident, Jiang called her back and spoke to her briefly, reportedly telling her that Falun Gong practitioners were killing themselves -- a common commentary in Chinese state media at the time, which was meant to help justify the government's crackdown against the organization.

Wang's previous encounter with Jiang, and her participation as a key speaker at the March 27 rally in Washington, D.C., should have been enough to tip off the White House that she might cause trouble at Hu's arrival ceremony. Either White House security totally missed these prior events in security reviews before approving Wang's press pass, or they overlooked them. It would not, at first, seem plausible that her history could have been overlooked -- since one of mandates of the security services is to protect the president from such embarrassments -- but on close review, it appears to be the more likely of the two scenarios.

Luckily, no real harm came from the White House's lapse in security competence. President Bush apologized for the disruption.

Ah, you say--what an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the high regard in which the United States holds "freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship" !

Hu, who had paused briefly, resumed speaking even though the woman kept screaming for several minutes before security officers forcibly removed her.

The woman had obtained temporary press credentials as a reporter for a Falun Gong newspaper and positioned herself on a camera stand in front of the two leaders. A cameraman tried to put his hand over her mouth before uniformed Secret Service officers hustled her away.

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said she had been charged with disorderly conduct and that a charge of intimidating or disrupting foreign officials also was being considered.


At least nothing happened on the White House lawn to endanger the freedom to buy, to sell, and to produce.

We're lucky, because China owns us now.