Politics on agenda when Bush visits Beijing for Olympics

July 31st, 2008 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (DPA) Although US President George W. Bush has called the Beijing Olympics a sporting, rather than a political event, he does plan to raise political issues when he meets Chinese leaders while he is in Beijing for the games, a White House official said. “We are looking for the Chinese at these games to show that they are making progress,” Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asian affairs in Bush’s national security council, said Wednesday.

“…This is an opportunity for Beijing to show that it is widening the door of freedom of press, freedom of expression.”

Bush is to leave Monday on his ninth trip to Asia in nearly eight years in office.

Attending the opening of the Beijing Olympics and some of the sporting events is to be the highlight of the seven-day tour that also includes stops in South Korea and Thailand, Wilder said.

The presidential adviser said Chinese dissidents whom Bush met Tuesday had expressed concern that he was adding legitimacy to the Chinese government with his Aug 7-11 visit to Beijing.

Wilder argued, however, that Bush must have a personal and strong political relationship with China’s leadership to have influence on the government.

“What we are looking for in China is not gestures,” Wilder said. “We are looking for structural change. We are looking for long-term change. … The ultimate goal here is to get the Chinese government to see that it is in their interest to free up their society.”

Bush is also to attend a church service in Beijing, highlighting a pet issue for him, improving religious freedom in a country that sanctions its churches and forcibly disbands unregistered churches.

Bush is to attend a registered church that trains pastors for underground congregations and afterward make a statement on his views on religious freedom in China, Wilder said.

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