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Clinton Ends Asia Tour with Church Visit

( [email protected] ) Feb 23, 2009 05:21 AM EST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her four-country Asia tour on Sunday by attending service at a state-sanctioned church in China and talking to rights activists.
Chinese security personnel is seen inside a building that is closed off near a Christian church where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to attend a service in Haidian, Beijing, Sunday, Feb. 22 , 2009. Clinton attended church Sunday after wrapping up talks with Chinese leaders focused on economic and climate change cooperation rather than differences on human rights. (Photo: AP Images / Ng Han Guan)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her four-country Asia tour on Sunday by attending service at a state-sanctioned church in China and talking to rights activists.

She attended service at Haidian Christian church, located in Beijing’s university district, according to Reuters. Although she did raise rights issues while in China, the United State’s top diplomat chose to take a softer approach to China’s human rights problems than former President George W. Bush, who is known to be outspoken and strongly critical of China’s religious freedom violation.

Bush during his visit to the Beijing Olympics last summer had made strong comments criticizing the Chinese government for forcing Christians to only worship in state-sanctioned churches.

In China, religious people are only allowed to worship under government-recognized religious bodies. Protestant Christian groups are required to worship in churches registered with the government-sanctioned Three Self-Patriotic Movement. There are about 10 million members within the state-approved Protestant church group.

But there are up to 100 million Christians who are worshipping “illegally’ in house churches that are not approved by the government. These house church or underground Christians refuse to join registered churches because they oppose the idea of government overseeing the church.

Government-recognized churches must submit to a vetting process when it comes to its leadership board.

While in South Korea, Clinton stated that while the United States will continue to press China on human rights issues, other global emergencies will take priority.

"Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these issues (Tibet, Taiwan and human rights), and we have to continue to press them,” Clinton told reporters in Seoul, South Korea, according to CNN. “But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis."

Clinton was careful during her visit to China not to offend the Chinese government while still demonstrating the United States’ concern for human rights in the superpower nation.

"Every society has challenges and problems and issues and obstacles and it's important that people like all of you continue to raise those and speak out," Clinton said when she met about two dozen women's rights activists at the U.S. embassy, according to Reuters.

The United States’ top diplomat also said while in Beijing that the U.S.’s and China’s economy are intertwined and will rise or fall together. China holds the most U.S. treasuries in the world.

"So by continuing to support American treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together,” Clinton said on Shanghai-based Dragon TV in an interview. “We are in the same boat and thankfully we are rowing in the same direction."

Prior to visiting China, the last country on her Asia tour, Clinton had visited Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.