WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President George W. Bush plans to attend church while in China for the opening of the Olympic Games next month, and will speak about freedom of religion, a top aide said Wednesday.
“When he goes to church on Sunday (August 10) he will make a statement afterwards in which he discusses his view on religious freedom in China,” said national security council director of Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder.
Bush, a devout Christian, has walked a diplomatic tightrope over the Olympics, repeatedly insisting the games are not a political venue while recently stepping up his public criticism of Beijing’s rights record.
“What we are looking for in China is not gestures, we are looking for structural change, we are looking for long term change,” Wilder said.
“We are looking for the Chinese at these games to show that they are making progress, to demonstrate to the world, the spotlight is on Beijing, this is an opportunity for Beijing to show that it is widening … freedom of press, freedom of expression,” he said.
Asked about China’s failure to release political prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Games, Wilder said: “Obviously I would like to see all these political prisoners that we have on our lists released.
“We have handed the Chinese lists of people that we think are unfairly in prison.”