Bush Stresses Religion in China

China Aid Association
President Appeals
For Wider Liberties
Before Meeting Hu
August 11, 2008; Page A8

(BEIJING –August12, 2008) U.S. President George W. Bush stood on the steps of a Christian church in the heart of the Chinese capital Sunday morning and, surrounded by a children’s choir, urged the Communist government to allow more religious freedom.
“No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion,” Mr. Bush said, after worshipping at the Protestant church and just hours before heading to a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Associated Press
President Bush called for China to allow more religious freedom after attending a Protestant church in Beijing.
On the third full day of his China visit, Mr. Bush kept up what has been a repeated, if low-key, drumbeat of commentary on human rights and also grappled with the conflict between Russia and Georgia, all while attending Olympic events. He watched swimmer Michael Phelps win his first gold medal of the Games, smashing his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley, and the much-awaited men’s basketball game between the U.S. and China, which the U.S. won 101-70.

Mr. Bush has spent considerable time during the trip, his fourth visit to China while in office, celebrating the strengthening of relations between the U.S. and China and, as he put it, showing “respect” for the Chinese people.
But, facing criticism from human-rights activists opposed to his attendance at the Beijing Games, Mr. Bush has also made civil liberties a recurring theme. In a speech before his arrival, Mr. Bush angered the Chinese government by calling on Beijing to stop detentions of political dissidents.
China has stepped up surveillance and detentions of religious, political and social activists ahead of the Olympic Games in an effort to forestall possible protests, human-rights groups say.
A well-known Christian activist, Hua Huiqi, was detained by security officers while on his way to join the worship service attended by Mr. Bush, according to his older brother, Hua Huilin, who was also held briefly and released.
Hua Huiqi, a pastor at an underground church, was still being held in an unknown location late Sunday, his brother said. Hua Huilin said his brother was hoping to see President Bush at the church. “He was afraid he would get in trouble,” Hua Huilin said. But “he was so persistent, saying he had the right to do it.”
Hua Huilin said one of the security agents who stopped the brothers as they rode bicycles toward the church, said: “You want to see Bush, but you won’t even have a chance to get close.”
Hua Huiqi has connections to Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association and a campaigner for the rights of underground churchgoers. Mr. Fu, who left China in 1996, was one of five Chinese dissidents who met Mr. Bush in the White House at the end of July to discuss human rights.
A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said he couldn’t confirm the detention of Hua Huiqi. But he said, “We’re disappointed any time that someone can’t worship freely.”
The Beijing Public Security Bureau didn’t respond to a request for comment.
China allows worship in officially approved churches. Millions of Chinese Christians pray in so-called house churches, unsanctioned by the state, in part to avoid government monitoring.
“It’s incredible, now that the Olympics is going on, the extent to which public security is targeting all the people they consider sensitive,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.
Also Sunday, Chinese police detained six activists, including an ethnic Tibetan from Germany, after they staged a brief demonstration at Tiananmen Square. All of them were being deported Sunday night.
In a lengthy meeting Sunday, Mr. Bush and China’s Mr. Hu had a wide-ranging discussion that touched on trade and investment issues as well as joint efforts to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programs, according to Dennis Wilder, a White House aide.
The two leaders also talked about how to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the crisis in Georgia, he said.
Mr. Bush, in an interview with NBC on Monday morning in Beijing, said Mr. Hu “listened politely” when he raised issues of human rights and religious freedoms. “I can’t read his mind,” Mr. Bush said. “Every time I meet him, I press the point.”
Mr. Bush said that it is important for the U.S. to “remain engaged with China” despite differences between the countries. “It’s best to be in a position where people will listen to you,” he said.
Write to Gordon Fairclough at [email protected]

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected] 
Website: www.chinaaid.org

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