- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Police in the District are preparing for at least three demonstrations today to coincide with the first U.S. visit by China’s President Hu Jintao.

The Chinese president is expected at the White House for a welcoming ceremony at 9:25 a.m., followed by a 10 a.m. meeting with President Bush. The Communist leader also is scheduled to deliver a speech at 7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest.

The National Park Service said the permit for the largest demonstration has been issued for Lafayette Square to a group called the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.

Iris Ho, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based nonprofit group, said organizers expect between 300 and 500 people to attend the rally beginning at 10 a.m. Demonstrators will protest China’s deployment of hundreds of nuclear-capable missiles aimed at the Republic of China (Taiwan) and call on Mr. Bush to invite Taiwanese leaders for official visits to the United States.

“If we respect democracy, then we should definitely have the right to welcome them,” she said.

Another permit, for 90 demonstrators from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., was issued to the Central Committee for China Democracy for a small demonstration on the White House sidewalk.

A third permit was issued for about 200 demonstrators with the Washington, D.C., Falun Dafa group, the organizers of which plan to gather at 10 a.m. in Farragut Square, northwest of the White House.

Today’s demonstrations will mark the third day of protests around the city for Falun Dafa, a group more commonly known as Falun Gong.

Falun Gong is a meditation sect that emphasizes refining the body and mind through special exercises. The Chinese government banned the practice in 1999, calling practitioners, who often gather in public places to perform its yoga-like exercises, an “evil cult.”

Hundreds of Falun Gong supporters filled McPherson Square at lunchtime yesterday, just blocks from the White House, to protest Mr. Hu’s visit. Members of the crowd passed out leaflets, chanted, meditated and held aloft signs and banners condemning Chinese labor camps and the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

One large hand-drawn poster showed Chinese doctors hovering over the naked body of a painfully thin man. Falun Gong officials accuse the Chinese authorities of systemically harvesting human organs for sale abroad, a charge Beijing denies.

In the early afternoon, protesters peacefully marched down H Street Northwest in the heart of Chinatown, chanting “Hu not welcome,” and “Down, down CCP!”

Karen Hong, a spokeswoman for the District’s Falun Dafa group, said she hopes the protests will force Mr. Hu to investigate the group’s claims of human organ harvesting.

The U.S. Park Police will be the lead agency in handling the protests around the White House, but Miss Hong said she also expects that protesters will gather outside the hotel where Mr. Hu will speak.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Kenneth Bryson said police are not aware of plans for any significant protests.

Mr. Hu is coming to the District from Seattle, his first stop in his four-day trip to the United States.

A few dozen Falun Gong demonstrators gathered outside the airport entrance there, according to news reports. More Falun Gong demonstrators gathered outside Mr. Hu’s Seattle hotel, but that group was outnumbered by Mr. Hu’s supporters.

David R. Sands contributed to this report.

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