Days before President George W. Bush is to meet with China President Hu Jintao on U.S.-China relations, he urged the nation's leader to ease restrictions on free expression and religious freedom, citing Taiwan as an example.
In his remarks, Bush said in Kyoto, Japan on Wed. that as China develops economically, its people will increasingly demand freedom of expression and religion.
"I have pointed out that the people of China want more freedom to express themselves – to worship without state control – and to print bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment," Bush said according to the Los Angeles Times.
He added that China has taken the steps toward freedom but has "not yet completed the journey," and then when speaking on Taiwan he said, "By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society."
Bush reiterated Washington's support of the "one-China policy," which maintains that Taiwan is not independent, and added that China and Taiwan should settle their differences peacefully.
Some Chinese officials took no notice of Bush's comments and said that U.S.-China relations are improving, while other officials chose to comment on what Bush said.
A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry Liu Jianchou said to Reuters on Thurs., "Chinese people enjoy all forms of democracy and freedom under law, including freedom of religion and belief."
Xinhua reported him saying that "All countries should hold exchanges and dialogues on human rights on the principled basis of equality, mutual respect and non-intervention in internal affairs."
Meanwhile, Christian organizations and human rights groups back in the U.S. pressured Bush to bring up religious cases in which Christians have been imprisoned for their faith under their participation in "unregistered" activities.
The most recent case concerned Protestant minister Cai Zhuohua who was recently sentenced to three years for running an "illegal business" under the government that published Bibles and other religious publications.
Christians can worship in government-sanctioned churches or register with the Three Self Patriotic Movement, but many of them prefer to worship in unofficial churches where restrictions are not placed beliefs.
Bush's visit on Nov. 19-21 is expected to further the relationship between U.S.-China relations. Liu added that Bush's visit on Nov. 19-21 is important in furthering U.S.-China relations and expanding "mutual trust."
When in Beijing Bush is expected to attend a Sunday service at a state-sanctioned Protestant church in and effort to fellowship with local believers.