NBC's Gregory claimed Falun Gong protestors provided a "fitting backdrop" for Bush's "strong" human rights message to China

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Reporting on a meeting between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, NBC News' David Gregory said that protesters from the banned religious movement Falun Gong, including one who interrupted Hu's remarks to plead that Bush "stop him [Hu] from killing," provided a "fitting backdrop to a strong message the president sent on human rights in China." But Gregory ignored the fact that, as The Washington Post reported on April 21, "Bush did not mention the persecution of Falun Gong, even with hundreds of its followers outside the White House."

Reporting on a meeting between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao during the April 20 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory reported that protesters from the banned religious movement Falun Gong, including one who interrupted Hu's remarks to plead that Bush "[s]top him [Hu] from killing," provided a "fitting backdrop to a strong message the president sent on human rights in China." As purported evidence of this "strong message," Gregory cited Bush's statement that "China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship." But Gregory ignored the fact that, as The Washington Post reported on April 21, "Bush did not mention the persecution of Falun Gong, even with hundreds of its followers outside the White House." In recent months, the State Department has urged the Chinese government to investigate allegations that the persecution of Falun Gong has included torture, murder, and even organ harvesting.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported on April 17, human-rights group Amnesty International "estimated in 2004 that at least 3,400 people were executed in China and 6,000 sentenced to death," but that "[t]he totals could be much higher." The Chronicle report also noted that "the U.S. State Department has urged the Chinese government to investigate" Falun Gong's allegations that the Chinese government has "harvest[ed] organs from thousands of the movement's followers in Liaoning province" before executing them. On April 12, Reuters reported that Manfred Nowak, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, is already "looking into the allegations." In March 2006, Nowak reported (see symbol E/CN.4/2006/6) that mainly because of "institutional weakness and lack of independence of the judiciary, particularly in a context where police exercise wide discretion in matters of arrest and detention and are under great pressure to solve cases," torture remains "widespread" in China. Nowak also noted that Falun Gong practitioners represent 66 percent of the alleged torture cases.

The State Department, in its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released to Congress in March 2006, reported a wide range of human-rights problems in China, including forced labor, physical abuse leading to deaths in custody, arbitrary arrest and detention, detention of political prisoners, and forced abortion. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an organization "dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world," also reported in its World Report 2006 that the Chinese experience unsafe and unhealthy working conditions: "[S]ixteen million enterprises are 'toxic' and over two hundred million workers suffer from 115 occupational diseases -- unpaid wages, pensions lost when state-owned enterprises go bankrupt or are privatized, and forced and uncompensated overtime."

Bush did reportedly advocate the release of a North Korean asylum seeker and six political detainees in his meeting with Hu, but as The New York Times noted, "Mr. Hu refused to make concessions on any cases on [the] list [of six political detainees] that Mr. Bush presented to him last September, when they met during a session at the United Nations."

From the April 20 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:

GREGORY: Yet when President Hu began to make his remarks, there was a rare interruption.

WANG WENYI [video clip]: President Bush, stop him from killing!

GREGORY: The protester was later identified as Wang Wenyi, a reporter working for a newspaper linked to the spiritual group Falun Gong, which is banned in China. Mr. Bush encouraged Hu to keep speaking saying, 'You're OK.' But the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event. She was arrested and later charged with disorderly conduct and attempting to intimidate a foreign official. The spectacle, as well as throngs of protesters outside the White House today, was a fitting backdrop to a strong message the president sent on human rights in China.

BUSH [video clip]: China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship.

GREGORY: Numerous disputes between the U.S. and China, from trade to Iran's nuclear program, were later discussed in the Oval Office, where the president reported progress but no breakthroughs.

BUSH: We don't agree on everything, but we're able to discuss our disagreements in the spirit of -- of friendship and cooperation.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News
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