Thanks to Peking Duck for the link. More about Dr. Wang's outburst here.
Not a Good Day for Relations Between China and the Bush Administration
The revelation that the White House granted a Falun Gong activist, Dr. Wang Wenyi, a temporary press pass in the name of the Epoch Times, whereupon she hectored Chinese president Hu Jintao at length on the White House lawn on April 20 during the welcoming ceremony, is unlikely to elicit a forgiving shrug from the Chinese government.
Dr. Wang is not a journalist. She is a pathologist, and the lead researcher on Falun Gong's current hot-button issue--the alleged vivisection of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese government at a facility in Shenyang, and the sale of their organs for transplant purposes.
The Epoch Times is widely known as an organ of the Falun Gong spiritual practice movement, which has been at loggerheads with the Chinese Communist Party ever since the Chinese government suppressed its practice in 1999.
An analogous situation would have been if the Chinese government had granted a credential to Jose Padilla's mother as representative of “The Newspaper of Record for Increasingly Desperate and Infuriated Relatives of Detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo” and permitted her to participate in President Bush’s visit to Beijing last year.
This quote from the AP report pretty much sums it up:
"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."
It will be interesting to see how this spins out. Initial US news reports concentrated on Dr. Wang’s dire—and legally more problematic statements—along the lines of “President Hu, your days are numbered!”
Subsequent reports concentrated on the more civil disobedience-styled Let My People Goisms such as “President Bush, stop him from persecuting Falun Gong!”. More recent reports merely described Dr. Wang as “pleading with Bush to stop the Chinese president from persecuting the Falun Gong”.
Ming Pao reported more categorically that Dr. Wang declaimed in a piercing voice, shouting exhortations such as “Heaven will destroy the Chinese Communists”, “Leave the Party”, “10 million heroes have left the party, when will you leave?”, “Judge Jiang Zemin, Luo Gan, Zhou Yongkang” and “Falun Practice is Great”.
Apparently Dr. Wang’s outburst continued for two minutes—which, one can confidently assume, felt like an eternity for the White House staff—before she was hustled from the scene.
The Epoch Times professed itself as flummoxed as Hu Jintao. The paper waited several hours before issuing a statement apologizing for Wang’s outburst and declaring the paper had nothing to do with it. As a mitigating circumstance, it also stated that Wang and the movement are incensed by horrific reports that the Chinese government is vivisecting Falun Gong supporters and harvesting and selling their organs.
From a domestic Chinese perspective, the image of Falun Gong as an organization of extraordinary reach and resource—after all, these were the same people who hacked into a Chinese TV satellite twice in 2003—has been reinforced.
And part of that image will now include the idea that Fa Lun Gong has penetrated the White House.
Bush administration apologies for sloppy security procedures will gain little traction.
It is difficult to believe that an administration that is so fetishistic about message control that it salts the White House press conferences with hustler-shills like Jeff Gannon to ensure favorable coverage did not understand that Epoch Times is the house organ of Falun Gong and could be expected at least to embarrass Hu Jintao if given the opportunity , if not verbally assault him.
It is also difficult to believe that the Epoch Times sought accreditation for Dr. Wang—who they describe as the key activist and researcher on the vivisection issue—for the White House ceremony with the idea that she would be fulfilling some conventional journalistic function.
I don’t know if Epoch Times has a regular Washington correspondent, but the fact that concerns about security and decorum relating to the admission of an unorthodox representative of an intensely hostile group—moreover, the point person for an issue described as “desperate”-- didn’t set off any alarm bells in the White House does seem kind of fishy.
Maybe there was some kind of nod-and-a-wink going on between a sympathetic party in the White House and Falun Gong to give the movement a platform to get its message out.
If there was, we’ll probably never know.
The takeaway, intentional or inadvertent, is that the Bush administration simply doesn’t care enough, either about Hu Jintao’s face--or about relations with his regime--to take care to prevent such a humiliating incident.
It also leaves the Bush administration open to the accusation that it lacks the skill, discipline, and credibility to conduct a carefully modulated policy of confrontation and conciliation with Beijing on behalf of the free world.
Altogether, not a good day.