Bush Apologizes To Hu For Protester

President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao toast during a social lunch in the East Room of the White House in Washington Thursday, April 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
AP
President Bush expressed personal regret to Chinese President Hu Jintao for a protest during an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn Thursday.

Mr. 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.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports the woman was a protester with the Falun Gong movement, a group that says it is persecuted in China for its religious beliefs. She yelled at President Bush, "Stop him from killing. Stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."

Chinese state television didn't run the demonstration and the BBC's report about the censoring was censored, adds Axelrod.

Wilder said Hu was gracious in accepting Mr. Bush's apology. The two leaders moved on in their talks and it was not mentioned again in several hours of meetings. Hu and Mr. 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, and charged Wang with disorderly conduct. A Secret Service official tells CBS News the U.S. Attorney is weighing a further charge of "willingly intimidating or disrupting a foreign official."

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said Wang 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, said she had received a press credential through the newspaper. He identified her as a doctor with a specialty in pathology, a Falun Gong practitioner based in New York.

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."

Mr. Bush, standing next to Hu, leaned over and whispered to him, "You're OK," indicating the Chinese leader should proceed with his opening remarks. Hu, who had paused briefly when the shouting began, resumed speaking.