Chinese President Hu Jintao will not make his scheduled Thursday visit to Yale after postponing a trip to the United States this week.
Yale still expects Hu to speak at the University at some point in the future, although the timing will likely depend on when the Chinese leader reschedules his planned state visit to the White House, Yale President Richard Levin said. The trip was put on hold so the U.S. government could focus on disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“We expect that President Hu will include Yale in his itinerary when the visit to the U.S. is rescheduled,” Levin said.
Hu’s postponement did not deter two groups from organizing exhibits on Cross Campus Sunday that assailed the Chinese government’s record on human rights. The exhibits are expected to remain through the beginning of this week.
All classes will now meet Thursday, after the University previously cancelled all classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday due to security concerns surrounding the Chinese president’s visit.
“Our primary function is teaching and research, and there’s no good reason not to do that,” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said.
The University was prepared to receive Hu with security measures to accommodate the leader and his official delegation of nearly 100, Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said.
“We’re all ready for them whenever they come,” Highsmith said. “We’ll keep those [plans] in the files and dust them off when we know the visit is back on.”
U.S. President George W. Bush and Hu spoke by phone Saturday morning and decided to call off their meeting, originally scheduled for Wednesday, due to the federal government’s current focus on responding to the devastation across the Gulf Coast, the White House said in a statement released this weekend.
“Both Presidents agreed that, in the present circumstances, it was best not to have a meeting in Washington next week; and they agreed to reschedule the visit of President Hu to another mutually convenient time,” the statement said.
On Cross Campus yesterday, activists displayed a large poster exhibit based on the “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” a series of articles detailing persecution by the Chinese government. The series ran in the Epoch Times, a newspaper highly critical of the Chinese government.
The display included photos of political dissidents and religious practitioners being tortured by the government, some as many as 50 years old. The graphic exhibition included before-and-after photos of young women with faces mutilated by electric shock and people whose limbs were forcibly amputated.
The exhibit previously has appeared at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., and campus activist Hao Wang ’07 arranged for the exhibit to visit Yale in anticipation of Hu’s visit. Wang said he thinks the display can still raise awareness in the local community about the actions of the Chinese government.
“This is an educational display, not an anti-Hu protest,” Wang said. “Once enough people realize the evil nature of the Chinese Communist Party, they will start to hold people accountable and bring atrocities to attention.”
Another Cross Campus demonstration included a handful of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation exercise based on Buddhist and Taoist principles that the Chinese government began suppressing in 1999. More than 2,300 practitioners have been killed, and at least 100,000 have been sent to forced labor camps, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
The exhibit was to have included oil paintings of tortured Falun Gong practitioners and live demonstrations of torture tactics, but organizers scaled down the exhibit when Hu cancelled, said Jianjiang Ye, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine who helped organize the demonstration.
“Only a few students have stopped to talk, but we have had some very intense conversations” said Bruce Pettinari, a Falun Gong practitioner from Manchester, Conn., who distributed flyers on Cross Campus yesterday. “We’re fighting ignorance that comes from lack of information.”
Some students had been planning to protest at Hu’s visit in order to raise awareness of China’s human rights and labor policies. Organizer Phoebe Rounds ’07 said any protests that would have happened in response to the visit would largely have been awareness-raising measures designed to take advantage of the national importance of the event.
“It’s crucial that a global university use President Hu’s visit to spark that conversation,” Rounds said Saturday at a planning meeting at Dwight Hall, hours before Hu’s official cancellation. “Issues of democracy … are crucial to Yale University, and they can’t be swept under the rug when someone of President Hu’s prominence comes to Yale.”
Both demonstration groups on Cross Campus received permits from the University to organize through Tuesday. The administration had planned to restrict activity on Cross Campus Wednesday and Thursday due to security concerns surrounding Hu’s visit, Wang said.
— Staff reporter Sarah Mishkin contributed to this report.