04/20/2006, 00.00
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Falun Gong protester interrupts Hu Jintao on White House lawn

Bush praises China but asks its president for more open markets and greater freedom of thought and religion.

Washington (AsiaNews) – Chinese President Hu Jintao's opening remarks on the White House lawn were interrupted by shouts from a middle-aged woman standing in the press area. It was later reported that she belongs to the Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement that is subjected to violent repression in China.

The incident started when Mr Hu began speaking after US President George W. Bush's welcoming speech. A 60-year-old woman shouted that the Chinese leader was a killer, and should stop persecuting the Falun Gong movement. Visibly embarrassed, the two men waited for the protester to be led away by White House security staff before resuming the ceremony.

In his speech, the US President praised China for its role in the six-nation talks on the North Korea nuclear stand off. He extolled China's economic success and market reforms, but expressed hope that the Chinese people might in the future enjoy greater rights and religious freedom.

Mr Bush also reiterated the US position on Taiwan, laying out the conditions for a solution to the conflict, namely 'One China', no unilateral changes to the status quo, and peaceful reunification.

The US leader also said he hoped for greater Sino-American cooperation in a global world on issues such as terrorism, security and pandemics.

President Hu thanked his host for the warm welcome and said several times that the "great American people" and "1.3 billion Chinese people" must work together in every possible field. He pledged greater openness towards US goods and a "move toward a flexible market-based exchange rate for its currency".

On the Taiwan issue, he said that the island was "an inalienable part of Chinese territory" and "we will never allow anyone to make Taiwan secede from China by any means."

The Chinese leader also stated that his country was ready to continue working with the US side to resolve by diplomatic means the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues.

A number of demonstrations protesting China's human rights record were organised outside the White House and in various US cities by Falun Gong members and Tibetan Buddhists.

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