Jul 31, 2008

China: Bush meets 5 dissidents from China before Games

Sample ImagePresident Bush held private talks with high-profile Chinese dissidents as part of a White House pressure campaign on China.


Below is an article published by International Herald Tribune:

President George W. Bush held private talks with five prominent Chinese dissidents on Tuesday [29 July 2008], and urged China's foreign minister to relax restrictions on human rights, as part of an intensifying White House effort to put pressure on Beijing before Bush travels there in a little over a week for the summer Olympic Games.

Bush received the dissidents — Harry Wu, Wei Jingsheng, Rebiya Kadeer, Sasha Gong and Bob Fu — in the White House residence, where he "assured them that he will carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing," said his press secretary, Dana Perino. Earlier, Bush dropped in on a meeting between his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi.

The back-to-back meetings came a week before Bush leaves for an Asia trip that will include the Olympics. The president has faced criticism from human rights advocates and members of Congress for his decision to attend. But his meetings on Tuesday [29 July 2008] drew praise from some of those critics.

"This is a welcome step, and President George W. Bush should now speak forcefully about China's human rights situation, because quiet diplomacy alone has shown little success," T. Kumar, the Asia advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement on Tuesday [29 July 2008].

In a report issued this week, Amnesty International accused China of breaking its promise to open up freedoms in exchange for permission from the International Olympic Committee to host the 2008 Games. A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss delicate diplomatic matters, said Bush shared that concern.

The official said the dissidents told Bush on Tuesday that an estimated 80 million to 100 million Chinese were worshiping in underground churches. "He wants to see that open up," the official said, adding that Bush also wants to press China to relax restrictions on the news media.

Bush has long said that he views the Olympics as a sporting event, not a political one. But he has also said he would use his attendance at the Games to press China on human rights matters.

Michael Green, an Asia expert and former adviser to Bush, said the White House must now contemplate how Bush should express his concerns while he is in Beijing. During a trip in 2005, the president attended a state-controlled church there and then held a press conference about it, a tactic that Green said got the attention of China's leaders.

Green said Bush's meeting with the dissidents had been aimed at both addressing his critics and sending a pointed message to the Chinese.

"These are very high profile people," he said. "These are people designed to get the Chinese's attention. It was not just a political move to provide cover at home. It was an important move to let Chinese leaders know that he's not satisfied with the progress."