Bush presses China on rights

August 8th, 2008 - 12:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (DPA) US President George W. Bush pressed Friday China to improve its human rights record, as he began a four-day visit during which he is scheduled to hold talks with the Chinese president and attend the Olympic opening ceremony. In a speech early Friday at the opening of a new US embassy building here, Bush said both sides should “continue to be candid about our belief that all people should have the freedom to say what they think and worship as they choose.”

“We strongly believe societies which allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful,” he said.

His remarks followed a speech in Bangkok Thursday criticising China’s lack of political and religious freedom.

Bush said in Bangkok that the US stood “in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists.”

He said he was “optimistic” about China’s future, predicting that political change was inevitable in the wake of its economic takeoff.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang Thursday reacted to the speech by saying his government “puts people first” and was committed to promoting “basic rights and freedom” for the nation’s 1.3 billion people.

“We firmly oppose any words or acts that interfere in other countries’ internal affairs by using human rights, religion and other issues,” Qin said in a statement.

US journalists travelling with the White House press corps said a plane carrying them to cover Bush’s visit was delayed at Beijing’s main airport for three hours late Thursday after China suddenly revoked their VIP status.

Bush Friday said the US and China had “built a strong relationship, rooted in common interests” and said he would continue working to “build respect and trust” with Chinese leaders.

He was scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday, before the two presidents are to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in the evening, along with some 80 other heads of state.

Bush also planned to visit a Beijing church and watch a China-US Olympic basketball game Sunday.

Qin appeared to play down Chinese anger over Bush’s Bangkok speech, saying the two nations enjoyed a “broad common interest and a basis for cooperation despite some disputes.”

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