WASHINGTON – President Bush met with three prominent Chinese Christian activists on Thursday and pledged to discuss the issue of religious freedom with Chinese leaders in the future following the meeting.
Yu Jie, Li Baiguang and Wang Yi – high-profile Chinese activists from China – met with Bush at the White House to discuss the severe limitation of freedom of expression, religious freedom, and the rule of law in China. The three religious freedom activists are known to be strong voices in the criticism of the Chinese government’s controls on religion.
"I’ve been working on human rights for many years but I won’t talk about that," said Dr. Li Baiguang, the director of Beijing Qimin Research Center during the Freedom in China Summit 2006 on May 2. "I will instead talk about how God has selected me to be a Christian."
The former university professor, freelance writer, legal professional, peasants’ right advocate and legal scholar continued to explain why religious freedom is significant for improvement of human rights in China.
"The national morale cannot be improved without proper religious worship," Li said. "As we have economic development our morale is rapidly deteriorating partly because of lack of religious freedom."
Bush has raised the issue of religious freedom in China in the past, such as during his visit to Beijing in November and during the recent meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in April.
The Chinese Party Chinese government only allows Christians to worship in state-registered churches and "underground," unregistered churches are considered illegal and can often times lead to fines, arrest, and imprisonment.
According to Reuters, Chinese activists said they had a prayer with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the meeting ended.
The Chinese Christians said that they are determined to use China’s constitution to defend religious freedom and hope to see political prisoners receive the right to be baptized and worship in prison.