Beijing confirms Hu’s visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Yale as part of his trip to the United States next week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao announced Tuesday at a press conference in Beijing.

The announcement confirms the Chinese leader’s campus visit after weeks of uncertainty. Although the announcement did not explicitly state the date of the visit, University officials said the talk will take place at Sprague Hall in the late morning of April 21 and will be followed by a panel discussion in Battell Chapel. Although students who are planning to protest the visit — citing China’s record on human rights — are trying to gain permission to demonstrate closer to Sprague Hall, Yale President Richard Levin said the decision lies with the Secret Service and other security forces, not with the University.

Levin said he welcomes Hu’s visit as an opportunity to strengthen ties between Yale and China.

“This is an affirmation of Yale’s extensive faculty and student involvement in China,” Levin said. “We have dozens of faculty members and hundreds of students with experience in China, and I think our involvement and commitment compares favorably to most universities outside China.”

Seats to the address in Sprague will be distributed by invitation, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in an e-mail. Some members of the press will be allotted seats and camera spaces in the hall, and students who are “somehow involved in China” as well as student leaders will be given priority in allotting seats, Klasky said.

Members of the student umbrella organization Social Justice Network e-mailed a letter earlier this week to Yale administrators requesting that they be allowed to protest on College Street across from Sprague Hall, but members of the Yale Police Department said all protestors will be restricted to the New Haven Green. The students, who dropped off a letter in Woodbridge Hall, have not yet heard back from the administrators, SJN member Charles Alvarez ’09 said.

Levin said the New Haven Green was chosen by Secret Service officials as the appropriate area for demonstrators.

“In fact, this is completely out of the University’s hands,” Levin said. “I of course insisted that there has to be an opportunity for protesters to assemble and express themselves, but they’ve told us that they have to be a block away.”

Sean Gallagher, resident agent in charge of the Connecticut office of the Secret Service, said the efforts of the Connecticut State Police, the Yale and New Haven police departments, and the Secret Service will be coordinated to provide security for the event, but he declined to elaborate on the details of the security plan.

“Routine security measures will be in place,” Gallagher said.

The faculty panel will be moderated by political science professor Ian Shapiro, who is the director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, and will include remarks by sociology professor Deborah Davis, China Law Center Director and law professor Paul Gewirtz, Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, political science professor Frances Rosenbluth, and Yale professor and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, according to the Office of Public Affairs Web site.

Levin said he expects his time for one-on-one discussion with Hu to be brief.

“I expect we are most likely to confine our discussion to Yale’s relationship in China and issues in higher education more generally,” Levin said. “As I understand, it’s a very limited window.”

The visit reflects strong student and faculty interest in expanding the University’s role in China, Shapiro said.

“President Levin spent a lot of time in China, and that’s how this visit came about,” Shapiro said. “It’s very good for the University. I think it’s probably a direct result of going to China and meeting with high-level Chinese officials.”

Jing Huang, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Hu’s choice of Yale as a place to speak is not accidental.

“That [President George W. Bush ’68] comes from Yale has to have something to do with it,” Huang said. “Yale would provide a platform for the Chinese president to talk to the elite members of American society, the people who do the thinking for the country.”

During the week of April 18, Hu will visit Seattle and Washington, D.C. as well as Yale, followed the next week by trips to Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya, according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs transcript of Liu’s press conference.

The address will be simulcast in Chinese and English on Yale cable and on the Internet, while Comcast of New Haven will cablecast the English version of the address, according to the OPA Web site.

Hu was originally scheduled to speak at Yale on Sept. 8, but the visit was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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