Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Shouting for freedom, not heckling

By Dan Bloom

When New York-based Epoch Times reporter and Falun Gong practitioner Wang Wenyi (王文怡) interrupted the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Washington last month, her protest was heard round the world. Hauled away by police and arrested, Wang later told reporters that her protest had not been planned but occurred spontaneously when she found herself standing up on a reporters' news bleacher and facing Hu just a few meters away.

The media has been calling Wang a "heckler", when in fact, she should be called a protester. She was doing much more than merely heckling a Chinese communist dictator, she was boldly and confidently protesting the brutal treatment of Falun Gong followers inside China.

Her protest was well-received in most democratic nations of the world, and especially here in Taiwan.

In a recent article she wrote for the Epoch Times, Wang, who had gained access to the White House ceremony with a press pass from the newspaper, said her original intention had been simply to report on the event.

But when she saw US President George W. Bush shaking hands with Hu, in full view of the invited guests and live on television around the globe, she said she felt compelled by conscience to shout out her protest.

"I cried out for those who have been tortured and suffered genocidal persecution," Wang wrote, adding that her protest was a matter of life and death, as far as she was concerned. "I acted in a way consistent with the American spirit. I also acted to protect the dignity of America and humankind."

Wang said that she could not pass up an opportunity to confront Hu and Bush over alleged reports that China is removing organs from living Falun Gong practitioners and selling them -- charges which Beijing denies.

"The two national leaders who have the best chance of stopping this were right in front of me," Wang later recounted. "Where else could I have a chance like this? How could I not speak out at that moment? Hu needs to hear this, for his own sake, for the sake of Chinese people."

Indeed, Wang acted in the true spirit of democratic protest and free speech, and she should be considered as a heroine for her actions that day.

Whenever a lone individual stands up to face down a brutal dictator, in any part of the world, at any time, those who value freedom and democracy must applaud her or him. Like the lone man in Beijing who famously stood up to confront tanks in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 during the government-ordered massacre.

So let's get one thing absolutely straight: Wang was not a heckler, but a freedom fighter. Her name should be honored, not reviled.

When Wang was asked by US reporters after the incident if she felt that her outburst at the White House had compromised her status as a journalist, she replied: "No matter what kind of title I have, I consider myself to be a human being first. So humanity surpasses everything when you see people being killed."

How did China and the US react to Wang's outburst that day? Well, Bush apologized to Hu, and Hu said he accepted the apology. But outside diplomatic circles, a letter to the editor of the Washington Post championed Wang's unplanned but passionate protest.

"I was outraged to read that Wang Wenyi faces a possible prison sentence of up to six months for shouting her outrage at the Chinese President," wrote Heather Brutz of Silver Spring, Maryland. "Wang is a member of Falun Gong. China has jailed members of this religious group, put them in labor camps, and may even have harvested members' organs and sold them abroad. This persecution has come about because of Falun Gong members' peaceful protests in China. In the face of such atrocities, Wang's behavior is admirable ... Through her nonviolent actions, Wang shows a clear understanding of the ideals of democracy."

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