- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

Club rebuffs Chinese

The National Press Club gave the Chinese Embassy a lesson in freedom of speech when it refused the embassy’s request to cancel a press conference by a New York-based newspaper critical of China’s Communist Party.

The embassy accused the Epoch Times of being a mouthpiece for the Falun Gong movement, which China has outlawed as “evil.” The Epoch Times describes itself on its Web site (http://english.epochtimes.com) as an independent, privately owned newspaper.

The press club posted an exchange of e-mails between embassy spokesman Sun Weide and Press Club Chairman John M. Donnelly on the club’s Web site (http://npc.press.org).

Mr. Donnelly said that the press club does not endorse the Epoch Times, but would never deny a forum to a legitimate voice.

“We would never bow to a request to silence anyone,” he said. “We practice and defend freedom of speech, and that applies equally to all, regardless of their views.

“Whenever that freedom of speech is restricted for anyone or to any degree, it is imperiled in full. And we would never be a party to that.”

The embassy objected to a Dec. 21 press conference by the newspaper, which it called a “propaganda tool” of the “evil” Falun Gong.

The embassy spokesman argued that “the real purpose of the Epoch Times’s so-called news conference is to use the event as a cover for its political activities to spread its influence, cover its evil nature and mislead the public.”

He called on the press club not to “provide any platform” for the newspaper and to “seriously consider our request to cancel this event.”

China claims Falun Gong is responsible for the deaths of more than 1,700 of its followers who either committed suicide or refused to allow doctors to treat serious illnesses.

Foreign observers suspect the Chinese Communist Party feels threatened by the widespread popularity of Falun Gong, which describes itself as an exercise and meditation group.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

Francisco Gil Diaz, Mexico’s secretary of finance and public credit, who discusses his country’s budget and its economic outlook for 2005 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Li Shantong of the China Development Research Center, who addresses a forum on China’s economy, sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute.

Tomorrow

Charles Bassett, executive director of the Canadian office of the Inter-American Development Bank; Sir George A.O. Alleyne, chancellor of the West Indies University; Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from India; and French Judge Eva Joly. They address the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual Ethics Day forum.

Eleftheria Bernidaki-Aldous, a member of the Greek Parliament, who discusses the treatment of handicapped people from ancient Greece to modern America, in a speech at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Wednesday

• Ecuadorian political analysts Walter Spurrier and Cesar Montufar, who address the Inter-American Dialogue.

Thursday

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Union commissioner for external affairs, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, head of Cabinet of former European Union Commissioner Franz Fischler. He joins a discussion of Turkey’s future in Europe at a 10 a.m. forum at the National Press Club.

Friday

Mike Campbell of Britain’s Sector Skills Development Agency, who joins a panel discussion on British labor policies at a forum sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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