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China faults Bush for meeting dissidents

August 2, 2008

Says he sent wrong message to Beijing critics
By Jill Drew
The Washington Post
August 1, 2008

BEIJING - China yesterday issued a strong rebuke of President Bush
for meeting with five Chinese dissidents in the White House this
week, saying he had "rudely interfered" with China's internal affairs
and sent a "seriously wrong" message to others who criticize the country.

The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao were
unusually pointed against Bush, who China considers a friend. Bush
supported the Chinese by resisting activists' calls to boycott the
Beijing Olympics opening ceremony to protest China's human rights
record. He also sat for a one-on-one interview with China's
state-controlled television without requiring preconditions that
would limit editing of his remarks.

CCTV aired a two-minute segment from the Bush interview during the
middle of its 11 p.m. English-language news program. The interview
was not shown on its main Chinese-language broadcast.

"I respect the Chinese people," Bush said. "I'm coming to China as
the president and as a friend."

Bush made no mention in the broadcast of US concerns about human
rights in China. He said he was coming to the Olympics because "I
know it's best for the US-China relationship that I go."

The July 29 meeting with dissidents, in which the White House said
Bush promised to "carry the message of freedom" to the Summer
Olympics in Beijing, crossed a line the Chinese would not ignore.

"By arranging such a meeting between its leader and these people and
making irresponsible remarks on China's human rights and religious
situation, the US side has rudely interfered in China's internal
affairs and sent a seriously wrong message to the anti-China hostile
forces," Liu said, according to state-controlled New China News Agency.

The issue of human rights is a tense one between the United States
and China, but experts did not expect this incident to harm relations
between the two countries.

"The Chinese government very much appreciates President Bush's
support for the Beijing Olympics, but they cannot abandon the Chinese
position on other matters," said Shi Yinhong, a professor at the
Center for American Studies at People's University in Beijing. "The
matter of dissidents is quite sensitive and the Foreign Ministry
always makes strong protestations when dealing with this kind of affair."

Liu had even stronger language for the US House of Representatives.
On Wednesday the House, by a 419-1 vote, adopted a resolution calling
on Beijing to stop abusing citizens' rights, to open meaningful
negotiations with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet and to end
its support of governments in Sudan and Burma. It called on Beijing
to create "an atmosphere that honors the Olympic traditions of
freedom and openness."

Liu lashed out at what he called the "odious conduct" of anti-China
lawmakers. "The resolution exposed the malicious intention of a
handful of anti-China lawmakers to politicize, interrupt and sabotage
the Games," he said.

Bush met Tuesday in the White House residence with five prominent
Chinese dissidents: Harry Wu, a critic of Chinese prisons; Wei
Jinsheng, a democracy activist; Sasha Gong, a writer; Bob Fu, of the
China Aid Association, and Rebiya Kadeer, who advocates for more
protection of rights for the Uighurs, an ethnic minority in western
China's Xinjiang region.

That same day, Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, met
at the White House with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Bush
joined the two and told Yang that hosting the Olympics "presents the
Chinese with an opportunity to demonstrate compassion on human rights
and freedom," according to a White House statement.
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