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China's Hu draws Falun Gong, Tibet, Taiwan protests

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 20 (Reuters) Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the White House drew hundreds of protesters, from yellow-clad Falun Gong disciples to Taiwanese nationalists waving green flags and Tibetan youth groups.

As Hu was welcomed by President George W Bush, a Chinese woman in the press section began shouting and was escorted away by a uniformed US guard.

''President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong,'' she yelled, referring to the spiritual meditation movement that is banned in China.

Outside the White House, protesters denounced China's human rights record, its missile build-up near Taiwan and its 55-year-long rule over the Himalayan Buddhist region of Tibet.

''Communist Party = Tyranny + Lies,'' read a yellow banner, carried by female Falun Gong member, which China outlawed and brutally crushed in 1999. Several hundred followers chanted slogans calling for the party's overthrow.

''Taiwan is not a part of China,'' read a placard hoisted by one of around 300 Taiwan activists, who reject China's claim of sovereignty over the island. Tibetans, mostly US-based students, called for independence for their homeland.

Falun Gong protesters shouted slogans late into Wednesday night near the house where the Chinese delegation was staying, prompting them to protest to the US government, a US official said.

Falun Gong, which thrives overseas despite being largely stamped out in China, alleges that government persecution of the group includes a vast system of concentration camps, where doctors harvest inmates' organs for transplants.

''China pays for jet planes with organs harvested from prisoners of conscience,'' read a Falun Gong banner, in a dig at Chinese purchases of US aircraft ahead of Hu's visit.

China has vehemently denied the organ harvest allegations.

However, a UN torture investigator said on March 30 he was looking into them.

''I hope President Bush can raise the issue of Falun Gong in front of Hu Jintao, ask him to stop persecuting Falun Gong and stop killing Falun Gong practitioners, because my husband is one of the victims,'' said Dai Zhizhen, who travelled to Washington from Australia to join the protest.

Dai said her husband, Chen Chengyong, was tortured to death by police in their native Guangzhou in July 2001 after he was arrested for protesting China's banning of the sect.

In remarks at Hu's arrival ceremony, Bush did not mention Falun Gong, but he said he would discuss human rights. He urged Hu to allow ''the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship.'' REUTERS KD RAI2316

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