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.
Hu, who had paused briefly, resumed speaking even though the woman kept screaming for several minutes before security officers forcibly removed her.
Outside the White House gates, hundreds of banner-waving protesters loudly demonstrated against Hu's visit. The clamor could be heard faintly during an elaborate lunch Bush gave in Hu's honor.
Chinese leaders place high importance on protocol and symbolism, and Bush moved promptly to deal with the protest on the lawn. Once they reached the Oval Office, Bush apologized to his guest.
"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.
China permits about three dozen foreign television channels to be distributed in China, mostly entertainment channels, but also CNN and the BBC among others. Their signals, however, must first pass through a state-owned monitoring center, allowing the government to black out news stories it dislikes -- and it routinely does so.
The Secret Service identified the protester as Wang Wenyi, 47. 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.
"It's hugely embarrassing," said Derek Mitchell, a former Asia adviser at the Pentagon and 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."
Just maybe it might be good for Mr Hu to have to listen to his people, and perhaps our President ought to be sticking up for religious and political freedom in China. Oh wait, I forgot we only talk about democracy in Muslim countries. Then there's the Asia expert who thinks its a black mark that we don't run a thugocracy here. To think Drury cast the dovish Democrat as the sellout to totalitarianism.