By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
With the start of the Beijing Olympics only weeks away, President Bush has vowed to maintain pressure on China for its religious freedom violations.
In a speech delivered on the 10th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, July 14, the President said he will continue to draw attention to the plight of the millions of Chinese who suffer religious persecution under the communist regime.
“We remember those seeking religious freedom in China, and we honor those who press for their liberties,” Bush said.
During his speech, the President referred to a Chinese dissident named Li Baiguang, a human rights lawyer and member of a Protestant “house church” in China who has been repeatedly jailed and attacked for his faith. Baiguang was scheduled to meet with members of Congress last month but state authorities blocked the meeting and detained him on the outskirts of Beijing.
“This determined man has pledged: ‘I’ll continue to … seek justice for victims of rights abuses, and promote the rule of law in China,’” Bush said during his speech. “And my message to President Hu Jintao, when I last met him, was this: So long as there are those who want to fight for their liberty, the United States stands with them.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is urging Bush to use his upcoming visit to the Beijing Olympics to visit with prominent human rights defenders and religious leaders and make a strong public statement about the importance of religious freedom and human rights to U.S.-China relations.
“The international community awarded China the 2008 Summer Games with the trust that Beijing would improve its protections of fundamental human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” said USCIRF Chair Felice D. Gaer. “The Commission concludes that China has not lived up to its promises and continues to engage in serious violations of religious freedom.
“We know President Bush has a strong, personal commitment to the issue of religious freedom in China. We hope he will convey his convictions in tangible ways, not only to China’s leaders, but to its people,” Gaer said.
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs told OneNewsNow that he hopes people will see more than just the beauty of China during the upcoming games.
“[I hope] they will also remember that this is a country that persecutes our brothers and sisters,” Nettleton adds. “This is a country where Christians are currently in jail simply because of their Christian faith.”
He’s also hoping the President will bring attention to the issue. “I hope that if he does get opportunities that he will really make a point of saying, ‘This is not just about athletes and gold medals. We also want to remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering in this country.’”
Nettleton would like to see a meeting between Bush and Chinese officials specifically on the issue of religious persecution. “You know, so much of our discussion with China is about trade and making money,” Nettleton contends. “Some of it is about military relationships, and we need to always remember to keep the issue of religious freedom on the table.”
The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will open on August 8 and run through August 24.
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