Jiang's visit draws protests
October 29, 1997
Web posted at: 4:03 p.m. EST (2103 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Demonstrators chanted anti-China slogans
outside the White House Wednesday as Chinese President Jiang
Zemin and U.S. President Bill Clinton met inside.
Chinese-Americans wearing cartoon-like masks of Clinton, and
Buddhist monks in burgundy and saffron robes began
demonstrating early Wednesday in Lafayette Park in front of
the White House.
Jiang was out of sight that rally when he stepped into his limousine for the short motorcade ride from the Blair House guest quarters to the presidential mansion.
On the nearest street corner, four men donned cardboard
sheets on which chains were drawn and holes were cut out for
their heads and arms. Each protester represented a persecuted dissident.
About 100 demonstrators shouted "Stop the genocide in Tibet!"
and "Boycott Chinese goods!" One protester held up a sign
that read: "Freedom Yes. Oppression No."
Nearby was an 8-foot replica of the Goddess of Democracy, the students' statue that was destroyed in Tiananmen Square in 1989 when Chinese troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations.
"I'm 50 years old and I cannot see that democracy will be
filled in China," said protester Zhilang Ching, who fled
China recently and is here under asylum.
The demonstration marked the first gathering in a daylong
series of planned protests and vigils against the first state visit by a Chinese leader in 12 years.
Jiang arrived Wednesday morning at the White House, where he
was greeted with a 21-gun salute during an official welcoming
"We just imagined it was another 21 bombs going off in
Tibet," said demonstrator Tenley Palsang.
Police on motorcycles, in cars, on horseback and on foot
watched over Lafayette Square, a grassy park dotted with
trees and statues of war heroes stretching for a city block
opposite the White House.
About one-third of the park -- closest to Blair House where
Jiang is staying -- was closed off to demonstrators.
Jiang's visit has brought together a diverse collection of
groups -- ranging from anti-abortion activists to
environmentalists to movie stars. All of them advocate freedom for the Chinese people and others under Beijing's control.
Appearing on ABC Wednesday, Hollywood actor Richard Gere, a
longtime advocate of Tibetan autonomy and one of the key
scheduled speakers at a rally later in the day, lambasted Jiang for what he called suppression of political dissent, and his record on human rights.
"This is an outrage. There are no freedoms in China. There
are no freedoms in Tibet," Gere said.
On Tuesday night, hundreds rallied outside the Chinese
embassy to protest religious persecution in Tibet. Similar protests were expected to intensify Wednesday, with organizers saying the demonstrations would be
one of the largest to greet a head of state in recent years.
Groups participating in the rally include the Sierra Club,
the Committee to Protect Journalists, the National Consumers
League, the Child Labor Coalition, and Friends of the Earth.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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