BEIJING : US President George W. Bush on Saturday expressed “deep concerns” about freedom and human rights in China, during his visit to attend the Beijing Olympic Games.
In a weekly radio address that was broadly positive about US-Chinese relations, the US leader said his four-day visit to attend the Olympic Games had reinforced his belief that China must accept greater freedoms.
“During my time here, I’m expressing America’s deep concerns about freedom and human rights in China,” he said.
“This trip has reaffirmed my belief that men and women who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China.”
It was the fourth time in as many days that Bush had raised the sensitive issue of China’s human rights record in public despite a pledge not to politicise his visit to the Olympics.
Bush is to speak again on religious freedom on Sunday when he attends a Protestant church in Beijing just hours before meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao. Bush has promised to raise human rights discreetly in his discussions.
China reacted robustly to comments Bush made earlier this week on the subject, telling the United States not to interfere in China’s internal affairs.
Bush said his government had been working with China on a number of major international issues such as the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but he also suggested China needed to reform elements of foreign policy.
“We’ve emphasised that being a global economic leader carries with it the duty to act responsibly on matters from energy to the environment to development in Africa,” he said.
Bush has been treading a delicate diplomatic line over the past month as he navigated between calls from human rights groups for a tough stance on China and Beijing’s insistence the Games should not be about politics.
The White House has already protested at China’s treatment of international activists who are pressing Beijing to exert its influence over Sudan to end the conflict in Darfur.
Bush attended the spectacular opening ceremony at the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium on Friday, but his visit is intended to be mainly a relaxed family affair. He is due to watch the US Olympic team in action on Sunday and Monday.
– AFP /ls
Channel News Asia