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Bush gives mixed appraisal of China ahead of visit PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2008

REUTERS, WASHINGTON- President George W Bush offered a mixed assessment of China's role in the world but said in an interview published on Tuesday it is "important to engage" the Chinese.

In a Washington Post interview, Bush praised China's efforts to curb the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, but said it is "really hard to tell" whether human rights in China had improved during his eight years as president.

The Post said Bush skirted a question about a pre-Olympics security drive by Chinese authorities that human rights advocates call a crackdown on dissent.

"They're hypersensitive to a potential terrorist attack," Bush said. "And my hope is, of course, that as they have their security in place, that they're mindful of the spirit of the Games, and that if there is a provocation, they handle it in a responsible way without violence."

Bush spoke aboard Air Force One as he began a journey to Asia that will take him to the Beijing Olympics this week.

Some lawmakers and human rights groups have urged Bush to boycott Friday's opening ceremonies to protest China's crackdown in Tibet and what they see as Beijing's failure to honor a promise to broaden freedoms in the run-up to the Summer Games.

"One of the reasons I'm going is because I want to show respect to the Chinese people, and this is a proud moment for China," Bush told the Post, explaining his decision to attend.

Bush told the newspaper he speaks candidly with Chinese President Hu Jintao about human rights and religious freedom.

Bush plans to worship at a Beijing church next Sunday and afterward plans a statement urging greater religious freedom, just before meeting Hu.

"My main objective in my discussions on religious freedom is to remind this new generation of leadership that religion is not to be feared but to be welcomed in society," Bush told the Post.

Asked whether he thinks he is making an impact on Hu, Bush replied: "Oh, I think he listens, absolutely. I think he's interested. ... He absorbs, he takes in, he listens."

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