After being formally welcomed by George Bush, the US president, at a White House ceremony on Thursday, Hu was just beginning his response when a Chinese woman, who had been allowed into the press section, started shouting. She was escorted away by a uniformed US guard.

"President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong," the woman yelled. US officials later identified her as Wang Wenyi, 47, a reporter with The Epoch Times, an English-language publication strongly supportive of the meditation movement that is banned in China.

The Secret Service charged her with disorderly conduct under local statutes. The US Attorney's office was weighing possible federal charges of "willing intimidation or disruption of a foreign official," said Eric Zahren, spokesman for the Secret Service.

Outside the White House, hundreds of yellow-clad Falun Gong disciples, Taiwanese nationalists, and Tibetan youth group members demonstrated against Hu and his government.

Human Rights

"President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong"

Wang Wenyi, protester 

The protesters denounced China's human rights record, its missile build-up near Taiwan and its 55-year-long rule over the Himalayan Buddhist region of Tibet.

"Communist Party = Tyranny + Lies," read a yellow banner, carried by one female member of Falun Gong, which China outlawed and brutally crushed in 1999.

"Taiwan is not a part of China," read a placard hoisted by one of around 300 Taiwan activists, who reject China's claim of sovereignty over the island. Tibetans, mostly US-based students, called for independence for their homeland.

Falun Gong protesters had shouted slogans late into Wednesday night near the house where the Chinese delegation was staying, prompting them to protest to the US government, a US official said.

The same official said Hu's aides were likely to have been offended by the White House heckler. "The hardliners on Hu's team are going to ask, why did it take so long for us to pick her up. It is not a good thing," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Security checks

President Hu had a working lunch
with Bush at the White House

Zahren of the Secret Service said the woman had passed through "all appropriate levels of security," including a metal detector. She was allowed into the event under a temporary press pass.

Falun Gong, which thrives overseas despite being largely stamped out in China, alleges that government persecution of the group includes a vast system of concentration camps, where doctors harvest inmates' organs for transplants.

China has vehemently denied the organ harvest allegations, which a UN investigator is examining.

In remarks at Hu's arrival ceremony, Bush did not mention Falun Gong, but he said he would discuss human rights. He urged Hu to allow "the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship."