Woman arrested for heckling Chinese President Hu at White House

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hu Jintao

Wang Wenyi, who was seen on television heckling Chinese President Hu Jintao during his White House appearance this week, was formally charged in a United States federal court for the misdemeanor of willfully intimidating, coercing, threatening, and harassing a foreign official.

According to the Secret Service, Wang Wenyi gained press credentials for working with the Falun Gong-run newspaper The Epoch. She then stood on a camera stand and shouted in Chinese: "Stop oppressing the Falun Gong," as well as "Your time is running out," and "Anything you have done will come back to you in this lifetime." She also shouted in English, "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong." The Falun Gong is a religious group who is currently being persecuted in China for unconventional beliefs.

Wang Wenyi was then "escorted" by the Secret Service away from the South Lawn where the appearance was taking place. Over 35 supporters attended Wang's arraignment on Friday. If she is convicted, she could receive up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

This is the 47-year-old Wenyi's second incident in five years involving protest of a Chinese leader. July 2001, she confronted then-President Jiang Zemin during a tour of Malta. According to Wang, she introduced herself to Jiang and then urged him "to stop the killing of Falun Gong practitioners in China." Security officials dragged her away, but Jiang called her back and spoke to her in Chinese saying that the "Falun Gong practitioners were killing themselves."

Wenyi's court-appointed lawyer, David Bos, challenged the criminal charge on the basis of free-speech.

"It's making the First Amendment rights of all Americans just evaporate," he said, while he said Wang's remarks were "relatively innocuous."

The first amendment to the U.S. constitution states; "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ... (or the freedom) to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Hu is in the U.S. for a weeklong conference with President Bush.