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S P E C I A L The U.S. - China Summit

Jiang's visit draws protests

protest 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.

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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 ceremony.

"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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Who is Jiang Zemin?  |  What does Jiang want?
The China Paradox  |  China's U.S. View  |  The Relationship  |  Is China a Threat?

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