President George W. Bush left Beijing on Mon. after placing religious freedom at the center of his agenda with top Chinese officials.
Before Bush left the United States, officials at the White House spoke with officials in Beijing saying that they wanted Bush to be fully-covered while he was in China.
However, Bush's attempt to visit a state-sanctioned church, while adhering to government law, didn't have the desired effect that Bush wanted, sources reported.
Mike Green, a White House spokesman said in a press conference prior to Bush's visit to China that Bush hoped to attend one of the state-sanctioned churches to send a message that China’s "people should be able to worship freely," which Bush told President Hu Jintao when they met together.
However, the China Aid Association, a U.S.-based organization that keeps close contacts with Christians in China, noted that Chinese newspapers wrote little, if any, on Bush's visit to a state-sanctioned church.
Christians were even kept away from the Gang wa shi church and his hotel, with warnings that they shouldn't try to protest while Bush was in Beijing, the Association added.
One case included pastor Zhang Mingxuan and his son who were released on the morning of Nov. 21. They were driven by security officials from Beijing to Henan in order to keep them away from the President.
China has two religious communities, one is underground or known as house churches, and the other community is registered under the government or in the government-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement.
For the Christians that are registered, religious reports from the State Department and the USCIRF said that there are restrictions placed on the believers, such as their teachings, Bible distribution, and evangelism, and for those who are not registered, they face "harassment, detention, or arrest."
Bush's visit signaled a message to Hu that religious freedom is important for China, especially in light of China's booming economy, and "allowing all Chinese citizens…full and free expression of their faith is something that's not a threat to the state."
"A society that welcomes religion is a wholesome society, it's a whole society," Bush said on Sun., adding that political and religious freedom go "hand-in-hand."