April 20, 2006

China’s Hu draws protests

By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit
to the White House on Thursday drew hundreds of protesters,
from yellow-clad Falun Gong disciples to Taiwanese nationalists
waving green flags and Tibetan youth groups.

As Hu was welcomed by President George W. Bush, a Chinese
woman in the press section began shouting and was escorted away
by a uniformed U.S. guard.

"President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make
him stop persecuting Falun Gong," she yelled, referring to the
spiritual meditation movement that is banned in China.

Outside the White House, protesters denounced China's human
rights record, its missile build-up near Taiwan and its
55-year-long rule over the Himalayan Buddhist region of Tibet.

"Communist Party = Tyranny + Lies," read a yellow banner,
carried by female Falun Gong member, which China outlawed and
brutally crushed in 1999. Several hundred followers chanted
slogans calling for the party's overthrow.

"Taiwan is not a part of China," read a placard hoisted by
one of around 300 Taiwan activists, who reject China's claim of
sovereignty over the island. Tibetans, mostly U.S.-based
students, called for independence for their homeland.

Falun Gong protesters shouted slogans late into Wednesday
night near the house where the Chinese delegation was staying,
prompting them to protest to the U.S. government, a U.S.
official said.

Falun Gong, which thrives overseas despite being largely
stamped out in China, alleges that government persecution of
the group includes a vast system of concentration camps, where
doctors harvest inmates' organs for transplants.

"China pays for jet planes with organs harvested from
prisoners of conscience," read a Falun Gong banner, in a dig at
Chinese purchases of U.S. aircraft ahead of Hu's visit.

China has vehemently denied the organ harvest allegations.
However, a U.N. torture investigator said on March 30 he was
looking into them.

"I hope President Bush can raise the issue of Falun Gong in
front of Hu Jintao, ask him to stop persecuting Falun Gong and
stop killing Falun Gong practitioners, because my husband is
one of the victims," said Dai Zhizhen, who traveled to
Washington from Australia to join the protest.

Dai said her husband, Chen Chengyong, was tortured to death
by police in their native Guangzhou in July 2001 after he was
arrested for protesting China's banning of the sect.

In remarks at Hu's arrival ceremony, Bush did not mention
Falun Gong, but he said he would discuss human rights. He urged
Hu to allow "the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to
speak freely and to worship."