WASHINGTON – A woman accused of heckling Chinese President Hu Jintao during a White House appearance was charged Friday in federal court with a misdemeanor of willfully intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing a foreign official.
Wang Wenyi, 47, had obtained temporary press credentials as a reporter for a Falun Gong newspaper and positioned herself on a camera stand in front of the platform where President George W. Bush and Hu stood.
According to Secret Service translations provided in court documents, she shouted in Chinese: "Stop oppressing the Falun Gong" and "Your time is running out" and "Anything you have done will come back to you in this lifetime." She also shouted in heavily accented English: "President Bush, stop him from killing," and "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."
She was waving a banner with the red and yellow colors used by Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China. She kept shouting for several minutes before Secret Service agents led her off the stand.
Standing beside Bush, Hu had just begun his opening remarks when the woman started yelling. Hu paused briefly, then resumed speaking even though the woman kept screaming for several minutes before she was forcibly removed.
A group of 35 to 40 supporters attended Wang's arraignment Friday.
Wang, a medical doctor from New York City, was released on condition that she remain in New York there and come to Washington only to consult with her attorneys or attend legal proceedings. She also must stay away from the White House.
If convicted, she could receive up to six months in jail and a fine of $5,000 (euro4,060).
Shortly after her release, Wang read a prepared statement to reporters in which she called her protest an individual act of conscience.
"It's not a crime, but an act of civil disobedience," she said.
The incident was the second in five years involving Wang and a Chinese leader. In July 2001, she confronted then-President Jiang Zemin as he made an unscheduled tour of an ancient city on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Wang said she introduced herself, then urged Jiang "to stop the killing of Falun Gong practitioners in China."
Security officials whisked Wang away, but Jiang called her back and spoke to her in Chinese, witnesses said.
"He was very agitated and told me that Falun Gong practitioners were killing themselves," Wang said later.