Reuters – Dissident Chinese Christians plan talks with Bush

China Aid Association
photo: roundtable discussion at the Capitol Hill with members of Congressional Human Rights Caucus on May 3, 2006
Dissident Chinese Christians plan talks with Bush
By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, May 10 (Reuters) – Chinese Christian dissidents critical of Beijing’s controls on religion say they are scheduled to meet President George W. Bush in the White House this week to discuss freedom of belief in China.
Yu Jie, a Beijing-based writer and evangelical Christian, told Reuters by telephone from Midland, Texas, that he and two other Chinese Christians — Li Baiguang and Wang Yi — were scheduled to meet Bush for half an hour on Thursday to discuss their faith and its place in China.
The three were visiting the United States and intended to return to China.
Bush is a born-again Christian and has called for greater religious freedom in China, where the Communist Party allows citizens to worship only in state-monitored churches, temples and mosques.
Bob Fu, a former Beijing underground pastor whose U.S.-based China Aid Association campaigns for religious rights, told Reuters he would also attend the White House meeting.
He said it reflected Bush’s growing impatience with China’s restrictions on religion — including its current row with the Vatican over control of Chinese Catholic bishops.
“This meeting sends a strong signal to China that President Bush is very determined on this issue,” Fu said by phone from Midland. “It shows the White House’s increasing efforts and frustration over lack of progress in human rights in China, especially in religious freedom.”
Yu belongs to a small Protestant congregation in Beijing that includes many intellectuals and some political dissidents and refuses to even try to register with the government. He said China’s small but growing band of politically-engaged Christians might have attracted Bush’s interest.
“This is a new phenomenon — young supporters of democracy and human rights who have also embraced Christ,” he said from Midland.
When Bush visited Beijing in November, he attended a service at a government-registered church. He also raised religion at a White House meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in April.
Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Institute of Chinese Law and Religion, a U.S.-based group, told Reuters she would attend the White House meeting and hoped to discuss how to encourage China to accept unregistered “house” churches.

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