Christian groups are urging Prime Minister Tony Blair to bring up religious freedom when China's President Hu Jintao arrived in London on Tues. to discuss various issues.
Blair's spokeman told Agence France/Extel Financial on Monday that the talks were meant to address trade and economic developments of both nations, to improve the relations between China and the UK, and that human rights would form a small part of the agenda. He also said that Britian has found that on human right issues it is "better dealt with in private rather than in public."
However, Christians and human rights groups are urging Blair to bring human rights out in the open.
"We urge those meeting with President Hu to press upon him the importance that the UK attaches to freedom of religion and speech, and to urge for reforms that will ensure true protection of these rights for every Chinese citizen," said Director Tina Lambert of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
CSW noted that upon the arrival of Hu in London on Tuesday, a Beijing house church pastor by the name of Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to three years in prison.
He was arrested on July 7, along with his wife, Xiao Yunfei, her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and his wife, Hu Jinyun for running an "illegal business" that publishes Bibles and Christian literature.
Lambert added, "a house church leader" who is "sentenced to three years for producing religious material the very morning of the arrival of…[Hu] surely demands comment."
At a banquet on Tues., Hu spoke about the relationship between UK and China, saying that the two nations have a great influence and responsibility to safeguard world peace, according to Xinhua News Agency.
"We stand ready to work with the UK to strengthen mutual trust, expand exchanges and cooperation, and make joint efforts for the well-being of the two peoples and a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity," Hu said
Hu added that China believes that the relationship with Britain is important. Since 2004, they have engaged in political dialogues and cooperated on global issues such as poverty, climate changes, and economic developments.
The President hinted to Xinhua that bilateral cooperation should be expanded, beyond the areas of trade, investment, finance, energy, science and technology, education, culture, environmental protection and other developments, and cover the recent bird flu epidemic and the upcoming Olympics.
Meanwhile, Christian organizations are urging Blair and other European powers, as well as the United States, to bring up human rights and religious freedom as the primary topic with China's President.