The White House on Friday dismissed as inaccurate reports from China that the administration will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic by flying the Chinese flag on the South Lawn.
China Daily, citing other media reports, claimed the president of the Fujian Association of the United States had been granted permission to hoist the flag "in a ceremony in front of the President's residence."
A ceremony, indeed, will take place. But it won't happen on the White House grounds -- rather, on the Ellipse, on the other side of E Street from the presidential residence.
China Daily's report -- which said the flag would represent strong U.S.-Chinese relations and recognition of China's success in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics -- set off howls of protest on the Internet and among conservative talk show hosts despite failing to receive confirmation from the White House.
Demonstrations by foreign groups on the Ellipse or in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, are not uncommon. But foreign flags are only flown on the White House grounds or on Pennsylvania Avenue to mark "state" or "official" visits of the countries' leaders.
In fact the current controversy is reminiscent of that visit. The Chinese insisted it was a state visit, despite U.S. assurances it was only an official one. The "state visit" label would have implied a bigger honor to Hu and to China, but Bush only had a handful of state visits and Hu's wasn't one of them.
Still, Chinese media continued to report it was a state visit even after it was over. And they continue now to report that the Fujian Association rally will take place on the White House lawn, even though U.S. officials insist it will not.