Mon, Oct. 28, 2002

Chinese President Jiang Zemin's brief stopover in San Francisco today was met with protests by about 400 human rights and political activists marching in front of the Chinese Consulate.

Jiang was on his way back to Beijing after a tour of the United States last week that included a meeting with President George W. Bush in Texas. Jiang also attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Mexico.

The Chinese head of state met with local public leaders and members of the Chinese community at San Francisco International Airport. About 100 people, mostly followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, protested at SFO with banners appealing for the government to end persecution of its followers.

Falun Gong was banned in 1999, under Jiang's rule [...]. Followers of the spiritual movement participated in meditative exercises at the airport and in front of the consulate building in a show of their solidarity.

The consulate was closed Monday for Jiang's arrival but hundreds of people waved flags and signs demanding everything from the end of military threats to Taiwan and autonomy for Tibet.

Zhihua Hu, 33, attended protests at the airport and consulate in hopes of appealing to Jiang to free Falun Gong practitioners. He said that one of his brothers was arrested two years ago and sentenced to four years in prison for practicing Falun Gong and protesting for the freedom to follow the spiritual movement. Another brother was arrested on similar charges last January and sent to a labor camp, he said.

''It's been very hard on my family, particularly my parents,'' said Hu, a practitioner of Falun Gong and engineer in San Jose. ''We just want to appeal to Jiang for a dialogue to stop the persecution of Falun Gong followers.''