Bush Pledges to Confront Chinese President about Human Rights Abuses
Bush privately met with five Chinese activists at the White House before leaving on a trip to the Midwest. Among them were democracy activist Wei Jinsheng and forced-labor critic Harry Wu.
“First he mentioned that he will talk to President Hu Jintao face-to-face,” Wei told CNSNews.com through his translator. “I emphasized he should let more Chinese people know about that, so he said he already arranged (to do that), so when he comes out of church, he will talk to people in the news media.”
“He said he was going to [meet] the people helping the religious, in public, and talk to them (and) make a statement,” Wu told CNSNews.com.
The meeting with the Chinese activists came after Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) sent a letter last week to the White House, encouraging Bush to meet with the human rights defenders before his trip to Beijing.
According to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Bush assured the activists that he will “carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing for the games, just as he has regularly made this a priority in all of his meetings with Chinese officials.”
Bush also dropped by a meeting with his national security advisor, Stephen J. Hadley, held Tuesday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yan Jiechi, where, according to Perino, “he noted that the Olympics present the Chinese with an opportunity to demonstrate compassion on human rights and freedom.”
Wei Jinsheng, meanwhile, urged that stronger action needs to be taken by the Bush administration, adding that he told Bush during the meeting that the president made a “huge mistake” in going to the Olympics.
Wei compared the Chinese government to a “hooligan,” saying, “If you retreat one step, they will step forward two steps.”
The unannounced meeting with the activists – and the president’s pledge – came after Bush had repeatedly emphasized that he views the Olympics “first and foremost” as a “sporting competition.”
On Wednesday, Congress passed legislation calling on China to end abuses of the human rights of its citizens, to cease repression of Tibetan and Uighur citizens, and to end its support for the governments of Sudan and Burma.
The legislation also urges Bush to make public statements about China’s human rights both before he leaves for China and while in Beijing, as well as to meet with families of jailed prisoners of conscience and seek visits to Tibet and Xinjiang.
The legislation passed 419-1 with 15 congressmen not voting.
The Chinese activists appeared at a news conference conducted Wednesday by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The two groups urged the president to make a “unilateral declaration” against the human rights violations in China.
“The Chinese people are crying out for someone who will not be ashamed, who will not be intimidated, who will not be so much in awe with the wonder of the Olympics, to not reach down to the people who are bleeding, the people who are crying, the people who are hurt,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
“I join with my colleagues today to insist that the president of the United States uses this opportunity to cry out for freedom,” she said.
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, emphasized the importance of the international community standing up for human rights during the Olympics – alongside Bush.
“Executions are unacceptable,” Wamp said, “alienation, imprisonment for standing up for what you believe is not acceptable to the vast majority of nations around the world. This is not the United States speaking by ourselves. This is a lot of people in the world knowing that what is happening in China is unacceptable.”
Rep. McGovern (D-Mass.), House co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, pointed out that the state of human rights in China is a bipartisan issue.
“There are many issues where it’s difficult to find common ground, but when it comes to human rights in China, we are one – there is common ground,” McGovern said. “Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives, we are one on this issue.”