With less than three weeks remaining until Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Yale, federal and local authorities have begun to prepare security measures to ensure Hu’s safety during his April 21 University address.
Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the Yale and New Haven police departments are currently working with the Connecticut State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Secret Service and Chinese officials to plan for Hu’s visit. The combined security forces are according Hu’s visit the same caution with which they would approach an address by U.S. President George W. Bush ’68, Highsmith said.
“We are going to have the same level of security that would be there if President Bush would come to visit,” Highsmith said.
While YPD Lt. Michael Patten said authorities are still working out specific details of the security plan, he said many of the same measures planned for Hu’s aborted September visit — postponed due to Hurricane Katrina — will still be implemented. Though classes will not be canceled, as they were scheduled to be in September, Patten said roads close to central campus will likely be closed for parts of the day.
In addition to road closures and traffic diversions, Patten said, the area around Sprague Hall, the site of Hu’s address, will be surrounded by metal detectors.
Sean Gallager, head of the Connecticut branch of the Secret Service, said he could not comment on any additional security measures, but said he is confident that Hu will be safe during his visit to Yale.
Yale historian and professor emeritus Gaddis Smith ’54 said this level of security is not unprecedented. Public dissatisfaction with the Chinese government’s human rights record also may contribute to possible security threats against Hu, he said.
“There have been other occasions when ambassadors and other dignitaries [from] countries involved in deep controversy have had heavy, heavy security,” Smith said.
Smith, who has been at the University for nearly half a century, has seen several past presidents come and go from campus. He said he remembers the days when presidents could visit campus without large security entourages.
But following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, Smith said, authorities began to take security more seriously. He said security concerns have also been extenuated in the last five or six years with the increasing fear of terrorism.
“They’re very nervous, and you can certainly understand why,” he said.
Given the Chinese government’s record with human rights, Smith said he would not be surprised if students organized protests during Hu’s visit.
Hao Wang ’07, a member of the student organization Friends of Falun Gong, said he would support but not participate in any student protests during Hu’s visit. He said his group will organize a series of educational exhibits on Cross Campus to highlight what he called China’s “crimes against humanity.”
“Protest only takes you so far,” he said. “We wanted to use evidence and facts to give people a wake-up call.”
Wang said several students are planning two exhibits meant to highlight political suppression by the Chinese government and to spread awareness of the persecution of Falun Gong. The second exhibit, he said, will be an interactive display in which a student will dramatize the torture to which Falun Gong practitioners are subjected by the Chinese government.
While educational displays will be permitted on Cross Campus, Patten said, all other protesters will be confined to the New Haven Green and will be monitored by the NHPD.