Hu touts state’s ties to China

EVERETT – President Hu Jintao of China arrived at Paine Field Tuesday morning, greeted a cheering contingent of flag-waving Chinese immigrants and declared himself ready to meet America.

Hu’s brief remarks to reporters on the Boeing Co.’s flight line were largely drowned out by the noise from the idling engines of his Air China 747, in which he had flown from China.

Michael O’Leary / The Herald

China’s President Hu Jintao arrives at Paine Field on Tuesday morning.

According to a statement released by the Chinese delegation, Hu said Washington state and Seattle are “renowned for their beautiful environment and dynamic economies.”

The state and city are “important American gateways to China and the rest of Asia,” Hu continued, and the ties between Washington and China are “contributing to the overall growth of China-U.S. relations and friendly exchanges between the two peoples.”

Hu’s visit is “pretty exciting,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally, one of the dignitaries who greeted Hu as he came off his plane. “China’s one of the great economies of the world, and a great Boeing customer.”

Hu’s decision to make Everett the first stop on his first U.S. state visit “shows Snohomish County’s on the map,” County Executive Aaron Reardon said. “We’re regionally and nationally competitive in trade.”

Huiying He was among those who welcomed the president.

Hu was to spend Tuesday night in Seattle and meet this morning with a group of senior U.S. and Chinese diplomatic experts, including Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under President Nixon.

Later today, Hu will tour Boeing’s Everett factory and make a lunchtime speech at the Future of Flight museum in Mukilteo before departing for a Thursday meeting with President Bush in Washington, D.C.

Hu was met by Gov. Chris Gregoire, former Gov. Gary Locke and other dignitaries including Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz. After shaking hands all around, the Chinese president spent several minutes smiling, waving and speaking with Chinese-Americans, some of whom had traveled from Alaska for the event.

Hu got a friendly reception at Paine Field, with many of the expatriate Chinese chanting “huan ying, huan ying” (“welcome, welcome”) as Hu and his wife, Liu Yong Qing, smiled and waved in greeting. Students from a Seattle elementary school and kung-fu club danced in dragon costumes to traditional Chinese drum music.

But outside Boeing’s gates, several dozen protesters who follow the practice of Falun Gong held signs hoping to catch Hu’s attention.

“The Chinese Communist Party has a history of killing people to scare its populace,” said protester Jason Timm, an engineer from Portland, Ore.

Falun Gong is a meditative practice that sprang to popularity among the Chinese in the late 1990s and has spread throughout the world since then. It is banned in China. Followers of Falun Gong here say that adherents in China have been tortured and their organs have been removed from their bodies while they were still alive.

Hus U.S. itinerary

This morning: President Hu Jintao of China will visit the Everett Boeing Co. plant to talk to workers and tour the facility with Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally.

At lunchtime: He will visit the Future of Flight museum in Mukilteo to address a VIP crowd. Then he will fly from Paine Field to Washington, D.C.

Thursday: He meets with President Bush for a state luncheon.

Ying Le of Vancouver, B.C., said Americans cannot fully understand what it means to live under a Communist regime. “It’s like the novel ‘1984,’” she said. “That defines what happens in the Communist system.”

However, Jin Lan, a Chinese citizen who lives in Portland, said most Americans misunderstand China.

“They’re afraid of losing their jobs,” he said while waiting to greet Hu. “The fear is understandable, but sometimes it’s not justifiable.

“More exchanges like this will help more Americans understand,” he said.

Wei Qi said she was in China in 1972 when President Nixon made his first trip there, and she was part of the second Chinese delegation to visit the United States.

Now living in Seattle, she said she came to greet Hu and “see a great relationship after 32 years.”

“It’s a very strong relationship, and China’s developed very fast,” Wei said. She said she hopes Hu’s visit will “make big progress between the United States and China and be close friends forever.”

Jin said he was “thrilled” to be on hand in Everett for Hu’s arrival. “Boeing and Starbucks are big brand names in China,” Jin said. “It makes a lot of sense (for him) to come here.”

Herald writer Krista J. Kapralos contributed to this report.

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or corliss@heraldnet.com.

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