Empty Chair, Dragon To Greet Hu

China's leader will be haunted by protests during his four-day state visit to the U.S.

A lamp post is adorned with Chinese and U.S. flags in front of the White House, Jan. 17.

An empty chair and a military dragon will await Chinese President Hu Jintao outside the White House as he arrives for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama this week.

They are among the symbols to be used by activist groups protesting against the Chinese leader, who arrives Tuesday for a four-day state visit that will include lavish dinners and meetings with Obama at the White House.

The Students for a Free Tibet group, which is pressing for independence for the Chinese-ruled Himalayan region, said that four of its protesters would be dressed as military dragons to highlight what the group calls Hu's repressive campaign in Tibet.

It said the elusive, colored lizard would represent Hu, who once served as Chinese Communist Party secretary in Tibet and presided over a bloody crackdown against anti-Chinese demonstrations.

"Traditional Tibetan skeleton dancers will be dancing to ward off the military dragon that represents Hu Jintao," Kate Woznow, deputy director of the Students for a Free Tibet, told RFA.

"Hu's failed Tibet policy is a skeleton in his closet," she said.

Empty chair

A Christian rights group said it would place an empty chair outside the White House on Tuesday in a bid to drive home the point that Obama will be the first U.S. president to host a head of state holding a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in prison.

Chinese democracy activist and writer Liu Xiaobo, the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner, is serving an 11-year prison term for co-authoring a bold petition for political reform.

At the Dec. 10 Nobel award ceremony in Oslo, he was represented by an empty chair.

Reverend Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said he would bring a wooden chair, with pictures of Liu and a Christian woman he claims was brutally beaten by the Chinese authorities, to the White House.

"I will place them in front of a 'no demonstration' zone at the White House and kneel in prayer, risking arrest," Mahoney told RFA.

As the U.S. leader treats Hu to a lavish White House visit, the empty chair "will serve as a prophetic reminder to President Obama of those who are oppressed and put behind bars by the Chinese government because of their faith and political beliefs," Mahoney said.

The highlight of Hu's visit is a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday, the first such feast for a Chinese leader in 13 years.

The black-tie dinner contrasts with Obama's predecessor President George Bush's workmanlike lunch in 2006 for Hu, which Chinese media reports at the time described as insulting.

There will also be another small, private dinner at the White House after Hu lands in Washington on Tuesday.

Joint rally

Aside from the Tibetan students group, scores of Uyghur, Taiwanese, and human rights and media organizations will hold a joint rally at Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House on Wednesday when Obama and Hu have their summit talks.

The diverse coalition of activists has urged the Obama administration to make human rights concerns a central part of the summit.

Last week, Obama sat down with five advocates for human rights in China in the White House for the first time to hear their views on the current rights situation in China and recent social, legal, and political developments.

"They discussed current challenges, prospects for reform, and recommendations for U.S. policy," Benjamin Chang, deputy spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, told RFA.

"The President was particularly interested in learning more about the situation on the ground, how everyday Chinese citizens experience and view these issues, and what more we can and should do to help," he said.

Television commercials

In an apparent bid to dispel any bad publicity and to portray China's soft-power image, the Chinese government plans to air television commercials in the U.S. during Hu's trip.

The commercials, to feature Chinese celebrities, including basketball player Yao Ming and astronaut Yang Liwei, will also be shown in Times Square in New York.

Several U.S. lawmakers also plan to draw attention to China's human rights record during Hu's trip.

They plan to hold a press conference on Tuesday with several Chinese activists and relatives of those allegedly victimized in China.

These include Geng He, the wife of Gao Zhisheng, a human-rights lawyer who has defended the underground Christian church in China and the Falun Gong spiritual movement. He has reported torture at the hands of secret police after taking on such cases, and has been missing since April.

Also at the press conference will be Chai Ling, a student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that were met with a violent government crackdown. She now runs a nonprofit called All Girls Allowed that battles the one-child policy in China, which has drawn criticism over forced abortions.

"China’s abysmal human rights record" should be highlighted during Hu's trip, said Chris Smith, a House of Representatives Republican lawmaker.

Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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