German student hurled shoe at Wen: prosecutors

AFP , LONDON

Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 5

British prosecutors have named the man suspected of throwing a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in Cambridge as a German postgraduate student at the university, ahead of a court appearance today.

Martin Jahnke, a 27-year-old German national working at the prestigious university’s Department of Pathology, was arrested following the protest against Wen last week as he gave a speech in the eastern English city.

China condemned the incident as “despicable,” but Wen has also urged the student be allowed to continue his studies.

Jahnke will appear at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court in eastern England today, said a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the official prosecuting body in England and Wales.

“He is charged with one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior with intent to cause fear of or to provoke violence, contrary to section four (1) and (4) of the Public Order Act 1986,” he said.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a £5,000 (US$7,400) fine.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said Jahnke carries out important genetic research into debilitating diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis under a group led by professor John Trowsdale.

His work has been published in the Journal of Biochemistry, the newspaper said.

On the last day of his three-day visit to Britain, Wen was giving a speech at Cambridge University on China’s role in the globalized world when he was interrupted by a protester shouting “This is a scandal” and calling him a dictator.

In a clear echo of the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at George W. Bush in Baghdad in December, a shoe was hurled at the Chinese premier.

The sports trainer landed about 1m from Wen, who dodged sharply to one side to watch it hit the stage, but kept his composure.

As the protester was bundled out, he shouted to audience members: “Stand up and protest.”

Some of the spectators — most of whom appeared to be Chinese — replied: “Shame on you.”

Wen condemned the action as “despicable,” but said it “cannot stand in the way of friendship between China and the UK,” receiving a round of applause.

University authorities apologized for the incident.

Wen has urged that the student be allowed to continue his studies, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

“I would like to hereby convey the following from Premier Wen: Education is the best help for a young student,” China’s Ambassador to Britain Fu Ying (傅瑩) was quoted as saying in comments posted on the ministry’s Web site over the weekend.

“It is hoped that the university will give the student an opportunity to continue his studies ... As a Chinese saying goes, it is more precious than gold for a young person to turn himself around to redress mistakes,” Fu said.

Fu said Jahnke “lacks knowledge about China,” adding: “It is hoped that this student will see his mistake and seek to understand a real and developing China.”