China Aid Association
By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer 9 minutes ago
President Bush welcomed to the White House three human rights activists from China, including one whose Internet blog was blocked by Chinese authorities after it was nominated for two top international awards.
The three — author Yu Jie, law professor and blogger Wang Yi and legal scholar Li Baiguang — are active in China’s underground Protestant churches, which have been hit for months by a government crackdown in which many movement leaders have been arrested.
Such underground Chinese churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are known as house churches, a reference to their use of private homes for services instead of government-monitored churches.
Bush raised the fate of the house movement with Chinese President Hu Jintao when he visited Beijing in November. He said afterward, “A society which recognizes religious freedom is a society which will recognize political freedom as well.”
The subject was expected to have come up during Hu’s return visit to Washington last month, and Bush said beforehand that the rights of the Chinese people would be a major topic for him.
Thursday’s meeting was low-keyed, with little fanfare. The White House released a photograph depicting Bush and the three Chinese, all smiling, standing in the second-floor “Yellow Oval Office” with Bush’s arm draped across Li’s shoulder.
An administration official said Bush praised the courage of his guests and their colleagues in advocating for their freedom to worship.
Both Li and Yu have spent time in Chinese prisons for their activism.
Li was a founding member of the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians and was chosen by Asia Newsweek among the magazine’s “persons of the year.” He was detained in 1998 for organizing student “salons” to discuss political change for China.
Yu, the author of several books and a founding member of the Chinese PEN center, was arrested and held briefly in 2004 during a crackdown on independent intellectuals. PEN is an international organization for writers.
Wang’s Web log, Wang Yi’s Microphone, was nominated for the “Best Blogger” top prize in the annual Best of the Blogs competition, sponsored by the German radio service Deutsche Welle. He also was nominated by the Reporters Without Borders organization for its annual award, presented in conjunction with the Deutsche Welle awards. Wang Yi’s Microphone finished fourth in both categories.
In writing about his nominations, Wang said, “I joked that this guarantees that my blog will be closed down. Indeed, even before the list of nominees was published, the Hainan Internet Monitoring Office ordered the blog `Wang Yi’s Microphone’ to be shut down.”
He appealed for support for his by-then nonexistent blog to win and wrote: “This is not about me winning a prize; this is about a slap in their face.”
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