April 21, 2006 -- The U.S. government has charged Wenyi Wang, a Chinese national who has lived in the United States for 20 years, with threatening Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday while he met with President Bush at the White House.
After waiting overnight in jail, Wang was formally charged with "knowingly and willfully intimidating, coercing, threatening or harassing ... a foreign official performing his duties," a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Wang did not break the law when she yelled "Stop oppressing the Falun Gong" at Hu or even when she unfurled a red-and-yellow banner of the Falun Gong, a religious movement banned in China. Wang broke the law -- crossing from First Amendment protected speech to criminality -- according to government prosecutor Angela George, when she yelled "Your time is running out," to Hu, and later, when she screamed "Anything you have done will come back to you in this life."
Wang will face a preliminary hearing May 3. Until then, she was released on her own recognizance as long as she swore to go nowhere near the scene of her alleged crime -- the White House.
Appearing on CNN Friday evening, Wang said she has lived in the United States for 20 years and has actively worked to become a U.S. citizen. She said her application for a visa to return to China to visit her dying father was denied last year.
Wang, 47, was trained in China as a medical doctor, holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Chicago, and recently completed her residency as a pathologist at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.
During her arraignment Friday, Wang sat with impeccably straight posture and faced the judge for most of her hour-long arraignment. She wore the same black suit she was arrested in 30 hours before the hearing. She smiled several times and conferred with her court-appointed lawyer, David Bos.
Wang entered the event with a press pass from Epoch Times, a magazine sympathetic to the Falun Gong. At a press conference after the court hearing, Wang was greeted with a hero's welcome by about 75 Falun Gong supporters, who gathered around her with banners and clapped and cheered.
Then Wang read a prepared statement to reporters. "What I did was say just a few words at a moment in history. It was an act of conscience and an act of civil disobedience."