According to Agence France-Presse news on November 12th, Washington officials indicates that President Bush hopes to attend Sunday service in China and communicate with the local Christians during his three-day visit. This is the third time Bush had visited China. Bush has noted that during this trip religious freedom will be on his meeting agenda.
Last week, several disturbing cases on China's religious freedom emerged The U.S. State Department released its annual religious freedom report listing China for the seventh consecutive year as one of the top "countries of particular concern."
"The scope of political openness and public activism and civil and individual freedom is actually now narrowing in China," said Michael Cromartie, chairman of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "Economic freedom, as some have hoped, has not led to more religious and political freedom and human rights protection."
The report was brought to the attention of right wing congressmen. Assemblymen Chris Smith (R- N.J.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) have campaigned recently for Bush to tackle the problem of religious rights in China in his coming visit.
However, China has denied the allegations on the report and accused Washington of interfering with China's domestic affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that ethnic groups across the nation are enjoying religious freedom.
The recent sentencing and fining of Pastor Cai Zhuohua, a prominent Bejing house church leader, is another major concern Christian organizations wish Bush to address at the meeting. Cai was sentenced to three years in jail and fined $20,000 for illegally printing thousands of Bibles and Christian literatures. Also two members of his family were sentenced to lighter sentences.