President George W. Bush urged Chinese top officials to expand religious freedom, after joining the Sunday Service at a local church in Beijing.
China's President Hu Jintao welcomed Bush with the military band playing the two countries anthems at the Great Hall of People on the edge of Tiananmen Square, and then they began their meeting.
The talks surrounded such issues as trade, economic developments, the North Korean nuclear disarmament, the most recent case of bird flu, intellectual property rights, and expanding more freedoms to China, that included the freedom to worship.
After the meeting, the two Presidents made their comments.
"It is inevitable for China and the United States to have different views on some issues as the two countries have different histories, culture and domestic situations," Xinhua reported Hu as saying.
"China will continue to build up democracy with its own characteristics and improve its people's human rights based on the actual situation and the aspiration of the people," Hu said adding that the country’s development will be "peaceful," "open" and "cooperative."
The State Department cited China this month as a "country of particular concern," for denying religious freedom. The White House is urging China's state-controlled media to not censor the news of Bush's visits and his remarks at meetings and even at dinners with top Chinese leaders.
Before the President met with Hu, he joined hundreds of Christians in the Gang wa shi Church, one of five officially-sanctioned Protestant churches in Beijing, to fellowship with local believers and Luis Palau who was in China promoting his new book that was co-written with Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the State Council Information Office.
Pastor Du Fengying preached the message on 1 Corinthians 13, and said according to USA Today, "If we take three strikes and beyond that we can’t take it anymore," however "as a Christian we should take it in," but "that doesn't mean we are weak."
After the service, Bush was given a Chinese-language Bible by Yu Xinli, the president of the Beijing Christian Council, and Pastor Du, whom Bush thanked for the "great sermon."
"The Spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church," Bush told Pastor Du. "It wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear the Christians who gather to worship openly." A spokesman at the White House said that Bush intended to show China and its people that faith is good for the nation.
Bush has invited Hu to come to the U.S. since their meeting in Sept. was canceled due to Hurricane Katrina. Xinhua reported that Hu will visit early next year.