- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hundreds of demonstrators from across the country yesterday lined Lafayette Park and areas near the White House to protest the first U.S. visit by Hu Jintao as Chinese president.

“We came here to echo our voices in the halls of the White House,” said Jigme Ugen of Minneapolis, one of about 200 members of the Tibetan Youth Congress who came to the District to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. “We are standing here along with so many other freedom fighters.”

The White House held a welcoming ceremony for Mr. Hu on the South Lawn while an estimated 500 protesters massed outside the iron gates near Lafayette Park and another 500 protesters gathered along the west side of 17th Street in Northwest.

Both groups held signs bearing slogans like “China Lies People Die” and “China’s New Era Begins When the Communist Party Ends.” Some protesters chanted “No more CCP. No more killing. No more genocide.”

The mostly peaceful protests still held an air of tension at times, as demonstrators permitted to protest in Lafayette Park held signs just feet away from Hu supporters permitted to occupy the sidewalk in front of the White House.

Eventually, U.S. Park Police officers separated the groups with metal barriers and mounted officers. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said no arrests were made.

The pro-China demonstrators paraded banners welcoming Mr. Hu to the United States and performed traditional Chinese folk songs and dances.

“It’s to improve the understanding and friendship between the two countries,” said Andy, a pro-China demonstrator who did not want to give his last name. “They [the United States and China] have different backgrounds but can definitely form an understanding.”

Hundreds of members of Falun Dafa — a meditation sect that borrows from Buddhism, Taoism and other sources — made up one of the most active and vocal anti-China groups.

The Chinese government banned the sect in 1999, calling its practitioners part of an “evil cult” because of their yogalike exercises.

Advocates of the group, more commonly known as Falun Gong, quietly meditated in the park, while others dressed in blue and yellow shirts passed out leaflets accusing the Chinese authorities of harvesting human organs for sale abroad — a charge that the Beijing government has denied.

“We would like to have a Chinese leader investigate all labor camps and prisons for this organ harvesting issue,” said Jiang Hu, 34, a Falun Gong follower from Overland Park, Kan. “The evidence has all been destroyed.”

The group also rallied later in the afternoon at McPherson Square and featured a speaker who reportedly exposed the organ-harvesting operation.

Dhai Zhizhen of Sydney, Australia, attended the morning protest with her 6-year-old daughter Chen Fadu. She said her husband was killed by the Chinese government for supporting and practicing Falun Gong.

“The last time [my daughter] saw her father she was only 9 months old,” she said. “So many children are suffering just like [her].”

A separate group of about 200 people demonstrated in Lafayette Park against China’s deployment of nuclear-capable weapons aimed at Taiwan.

China “should stop threatening democratic Taiwan,” said Iris Ho, a spokeswoman for the District-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, which helped organize the group. “Any future of Taiwan should be decided peacefully and by the people of Taiwan alone.”

Mr. Hu’s visit was his second stop on a four-day trip to the United States. He began his U.S. visit in Seattle on Tuesday.

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