February 28, 2008 / 6:49 PM / 12 years ago

Bush: Will raise rights concerns privately in Beijing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Thursday he would express his concern about China’s human rights record in private talks with President Hu Jintao during a visit to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic games.

President George W. Bush holds a news conference in the White House Press Briefing Room in Washington February 28, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

“I’m going to the Olympics because it’s a sporting event, and I’m looking forward to seeing the athletic competition,” Bush told a White House news conference.

“But that will not preclude me from meeting with the Chinese president, expressing my deep concerns about a variety of issues,” he added.

Bush spoke a day after experts and lawmakers told a U.S. government panel that China was not keeping the promises it made to improve its human rights record in order to host the Olympics.

Five months before the opening ceremony, conditions may be getting worse with the detention of Chinese activists who have sought to link human rights to the Olympics, witnesses told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Asked about a factory worker being tried for subversion for saying human rights should take precedence over the Olympics, Bush said, “I am not the least bit shy of bringing up the concerns expressed by this factory worker, and I believe that I’ll have an opportunity to do so with the president.”

Bush, an avid fan of baseball and American football, has insisted he will not talk publicly about Beijing’s policies during his visit to the Olympics.

But he made clear that in private he would have plenty to say to Hu about restrictions on religious freedom in China.

“Every time I meet with him I talk about religious freedom and the importance of China’s society recognizing that if you’re allowed to worship freely, it will benefit the society as a whole, that the Chinese government should not fear the idea of people praying to a god as they see fit,” he said.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Sandra Maler)

"Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at blogs.reuters.com/china

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