U.S. authorities are taking a hard line against the New York doctor who heckled President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao – hitting her with a federal charge that carries six months in prison.
Wenyi Wang, 47, a devotee of the Falun Gong movement, was originally booked on a disorderly conduct charge after she crashed Thursday’s White House ceremony.
But the U.S. attorney’s office later decided to charge her with harassing, intimidating and threatening a foreign official for yelling at Hu that his “days are numbered.”
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
At a court hearing in Washington, defense lawyer David Bos said she shouldn’t face any criminal charges because she was exercising her free-speech rights. “It’s making the First Amendment rights of all Americans just evaporate,” he said.
Human Rights Watch
Prosecutor Angela George argued that because Wang’s tirade was personally directed at Hu, it wasn’t protected speech.
Wang, who used a temporary press pass from a Falun Gong newspaper to get into the ceremony, was released without bail.
Shortly after her release, Wang read a statement to reporters, saying her protest was “not a crime, but an act of civil disobedience.”
She later told CNN she wanted Bush to know the extent of human rights violations in China. “I don’t think he knows the most severe, unspeakable crime going on in China,” she said.
Falun Gong, a spiritual movement, is banned by China, and its leaders claim Hu’s government has persecuted and harvested the organs of followers.
Protests followed Hu to Yale University, the last stop on his U.S. tour. A CNN reporter was ejected from a ceremony at the school after shouting out a question to Hu.