April 25, 2006

China condemns Falun Gong but spares U.S. criticism

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - 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 George W. 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.

"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 (CCP) "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

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

Since then, Falun Gong has campaigned from abroad against
what it says is brutal persecution of followers in China.

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

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.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Hong Kong)