The protester interrupted the ceremony by shouting to Bush to stop the Chinese president from "persecuting the Falun Gong."
Bush later addressed the matter when he met with Hu in the Oval Office. "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.
Wilder said Hu was gracious in accepting Bush's apology. The two leaders moved on in their talks and it was not mentioned again in several hours of meetings. Hu and Bush sat next to each other at an elaborate luncheon — a departure from traditional protocol, which would have them at different tables.
Chinese leaders place high importance on symbolism and protocol. White House officials have worked with Chinese counterparts for months on every detail of Hu's visit.
"I would be extremely surprised if the Chinese blamed us for this," Wilder said.
The woman began shouting from the top of a camera stand that had been erected in front of the two leaders on the South Lawn.
The Secret Service identified her as Wenyi Wang, 47.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said that she had been charged with disorderly conduct and that a charge of intimidating or disrupting foreign officials was also being considered.
Mackin said she had gained access to the event with a temporary White House pass and had been cleared through all the appropriate levels of security
Stephen Gregory, a spokesman for the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper The Epoch Times, later identified the protester as Dr. Wang Wenyi, a pathologist and Falun Gong practitioner based in New York. She had received a press credential through The Epoch Times, Gregory said.
She shouted in Chinese and in heavily accented English: "President Bush: Stop him from killing" and "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."
Bush, standing next to Hu, leaned over and whispered to Hu, "You're OK," indicating the Chinese leader should continue with his opening remarks. Hu, who had paused briefly when the shouting began, resumed speaking.
The protester 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 uniformed Secret Service agents made their way to her position at the top of the camera stand. They dragged her off the stand and hustled her outside the fenced-off South Lawn.
An Asian television cameraman who was standing next to the protester tried momentarily to quiet her by putting his hand in front of her mouth.
"It's hugely embarrassing," said Derek Mitchell, a former Asia adviser at the Defense Department who now is 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 worse fears and suspicions about the United States, into mistrust about American intentions toward China."
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said he was too busy to talk when contacted for comment on the heckling.
Gregory, the spokesman for the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper, said, "We expected her to act as a reporter; we didn't expect her to protest. None of us had any idea that Dr. Wang was planning this."
Gregory said Wang "probably wanted to call attention" to Falun Gong's claim that the Chinese has engaged in human organ harvesting, an allegation China has denied.