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Bush Meets with Chinese Human Rights Activists

President Bush invited human rights activists from mainland China to the White House for a chat.

With their heads bowed and hands held, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and three Chinese Christian dissidents prayed for the freedom of religion in China.

On May 11, 2006, President Bush met with Yu Jie, Li Baiguang, and Wang Yi on the second floor of the Yellow Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. The three—writer Yu Jie, law professor and blogger Wang Yi, and legal scholar Li Baiguang—are active in China’s underground Protestant churches, which have been under a Chinese communist government crackdown. Many Christians, as a result, have been arrested.

Yu is part of a Protestant congregation in Beijing that includes many intellectuals and some political dissidents. The congregation refuses to register with the government. Yu, the author of several books and a founding member of the Chinese PEN center, was arrested and held briefly in 2004 during a crackdown on independent intellectuals. PEN is an international organization for writers.

Li was a founding member of the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians and was chosen by Asia Newsweek to be among the magazine’s "Persons of the Year." He was detained in 1998 for organizing student "salons" to discuss political change for China.

Wang’s Web log-Wang Yi’s Microphone—was nominated for the "Best Blogger" top prize in the annual Best of the Blogs competition, sponsored by the German radio service Deutsche Welle. He also was nominated by the organization Reporters Without Borders for its annual award, presented in conjunction with the Deutsche Welle awards. Wang Yi’s Microphone finished fourth in both categories.

When President Bush visited Beijing in November 2005, he attended a service at a government-registered church. The Communist Party in China allows citizens to worship only in state-monitored churches, temples, and mosques. Underground Chinese churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are known as "house churches," which is a reference to their use of private homes for services instead of government-monitored churches.

According to the three Chinese Christian dissidents, during the May 11 meeting they raised the issue of political prisoners in China not being allowed to be baptized or to worship in prisons. They also said they had brought up concerns that Yahoo email account information was being used to jail Internet writers in China.

While the meeting has been widely reported by media as a meeting with dissidents and rights activists, the three Chinese Christians have emphasized that it was a meeting among Christians. According to the White House, President Bush met "with Chinese Human Rights activists."{mospagebreak}

According to information on the Internet in China, there were originally seven people from the mainland invited to attend the Freedom in China Summit in Washington. In April 2006, the U.S. government requested information about Chinese human rights activists for the Freedom in China Summit, including Gao Zhisheng, Fan Yafeng, Guo Feixiong, Zhang Xingsui, Li Paguang, Yu Jie, Wang Yi, and others. Due to interference from the Chinese communist regime, Gao Zhisheng, Fan Yafeng, and Zhang Xingsui were not able to make the trip.

Guo Feixiong went to the United States and attended activities but was not included among those who met with Mr. Bush on May 11.

According to Gao Zhisheng, Guo was excited when he learned on May 8 that the meeting with Bush was confirmed, only to be advised by Bob Fu, President of Texas-based China Aid Association, and Wang Yi that he would not be attending the meeting since he is not a Christian.

According to Guo, Bob Fu reiterated that he was pressured by Yu Jie and Wang Yi, who were threatening to leave the group.

Gao Zhisheng believes that if Guo had been included in the meeting with Bush, he would have raised the issue of the persecution of Falun Gong in China. That is why Guo was not allowed to attend the meeting. "Think about it. After they met with Bush, they called the meeting a ‘religious gathering.’ They did not mention even one word about the most heinous religious persecution."

Regardless of how we classify the nature of the meeting, its aftermath would have been the same.

Yu and the group returned to Beijing the night of May 18, 2006. At the airport, a number of plainclothes State Security agents, along with an official from the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the China State Council, followed them.

During Yu’s visit to the United States, the authorities in China detained and interrogated his wife.