From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

RE: “I could find no footage to post, but you may remember that Truman
patted Ho Chi Minh on the head.” – [ spaceandsound ]

China and Its President Greeted by a Host of Indignities
BY Dana Milbank / April 21, 2006

Chinese President Hu Jintao got almost everything he wanted out of
yesterday’s visit to the White House.

He got the 21-gun salute, the review of the troops and the Colonial
fife-and-drum corps. He got the exchange of toasts and a meal of
wild-caught Alaskan halibut with mushroom essence, $50 chardonnay and
live bluegrass music. And he got an Oval Office photo op with President
Bush, who nodded and smiled as if he understood Chinese while Hu spoke.

If only the White House hadn’t given press credentials to a Falun Gong
activist who five years ago heckled Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, in
Malta. Sure enough, 90 seconds into Hu’s speech on the South Lawn, the
woman started shrieking, “President Hu, your days are numbered!” and
“President Bush, stop him from killing!”

Bush and Hu looked up, stunned. It took so long to silence her — a
full three minutes — that Bush aides began to wonder if the Secret
Service’s strategy was to let her scream herself hoarse. The rattled
Chinese president haltingly attempted to continue his speech and
television coverage went to split screen.

“You’re okay,” Bush gently reassured Hu.

But he wasn’t okay, not really. The protocol-obsessed Chinese leader
suffered a day full of indignities — some intentional, others just
careless. The visit began with a slight when the official announcer
said the band would play the “national anthem of the Republic of China”
— the official name of Taiwan. It continued when Vice President Cheney
donned sunglasses for the ceremony, and again when Hu, attempting to
leave the stage via the wrong staircase, was yanked back by his jacket.
Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States
tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child.

Then there were the intentional slights. China wanted a formal state
visit such as Jiang got, but the administration refused, calling it
instead an “official” visit. Bush acquiesced to the 21-gun salute but
insisted on a luncheon instead of a formal dinner, in the East Room
instead of the State Dining Room. Even the visiting country’s flags
were missing from the lampposts near the White House.

But as protocol breaches go, it’s hard to top the heckling of a foreign
leader at the White House. Explaining the incident — the first
disruption at the executive mansion in recent memory — White House and
Secret Service officials said she was “a legitimate journalist” and
that there was nothing suspicious in her background. In other words:
Who knew?

Hu did. The Chinese had warned the White House to be careful about who
was admitted to the ceremony. To no avail: They granted a one-day pass
to Wang Wenyi of the Falun Gong publication Epoch Times. A quick Nexis
search shows that in 2001, she slipped through a security cordon in
Malta protecting Jiang (she had been denied media credentials) and got
into an argument with him. The 47-year-old pathologist is expected to
be charged today with attempting to harass a foreign official.

Bush apologized to the angry Chinese leader in the Oval Office.
“Frankly, we moved on,” National Security Council official Dennis
Wilder told reporters later. It was, he said, a “momentary blip.”

Maybe, but Hu was in no mood to make concessions. In negotiations, he
gave the U.S. side nothing tangible on delicate matters such as the
nuclear problems in North Korea and Iran, the Chinese currency’s value
and the trade deficit with China.

Wilder pleaded for understanding. “Some people today want to see a
quick fix to the trade imbalance,” he explained. “But in the new global
economy there is no quick fix.”

In the arrival ceremony, Bush, after leading Hu on a review of the
troops, welcomed him to the White House. Hu clapped for himself. He was
less enthusiastic about the long list of demands Bush made in his
welcome speech: expand Chinese consumption of U.S. goods, enforce
intellectual property rights, and allow freedom to assemble, speak and

Hu’s reply was overshadowed by what the White House transcript politely
called an “audience interruption,” as if somebody had sneezed.

The meeting in the Oval Office brought more of the same. In front of
the cameras, Bush thanked Hu for his “frankness” — diplomatic code for
disagreement — and Hu stood expressionless. The two unexpectedly
agreed to take questions from reporters, but Bush grew impatient as Hu
gave a long answer about trade, made all the longer by the translation.
Bush at one point tapped his foot on the ground. “It was a very
comprehensive answer,” he observed when Hu finished.

Last came the unofficial state luncheon. After the butter heirloom corn
broth and the ginger-scented dumplings had been consumed, Hu rose with
a toast that proclaimed he and Bush had “reached a broad and important
agreement on China-U.S. relations.”

The White House didn’t see it that way. Instead of a statement about a
new accord with China, it issued a press release titled “MEDICARE
CHECK-UP: Prescription Drug Benefit Enrollment Hits 30 Million . . . .”

{Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.}

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