Bush Asks China to Communicate with Vatican and Dalai Lama

Jiang Urged to Release Bishops, Says U.S. Aide

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BEIJING, FEB. 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).- U.S. President George W. Bush asked Chinese President Jiang Zemin to respect religious liberty and to open communications with the Vatican and the Dalai Lama.

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice revealed the request today at the end of a press conference held by the two presidents. The request came at a closed-door conversation between Bush and Jiang, which Rice attended.

Rice also addressed the case of bishops and priests whom the Chinese authorities have imprisoned or prohibit to exercise their ministry. On Feb. 12, Fides published a list of 33 names, which included five arrested bishops, eight bishops who are not allowed to exercise their ministry, and 21 priests who are either arrested or closely watched by the police.

«The government needs to release them. We´ve made that clear,» Rice told reporters.

During the conference of the two presidents with Chinese and foreign reporters, Jiang was asked twice in English about why bishops and priests of the underground Catholic Church are in prison or prevented from ministering, Fides reported.

According to press conference rules, foreign journalists are supposed to put questions to Bush while the Chinese address Jiang. In fact, Jiang did not reply directly.

Bush said: «All the world´s people, including the people of China, should be free to choose how they live, how they worship, and how they work. … China´s future is for the Chinese people to decide, yet no nation is exempt from the demands of human dignity.»

Toward the end of the media conference, the Chinese president said he does not personally subscribe to any faith, although he has read the Bible, the Koran and Buddhist scripture.

Jiang told journalists that «religious faiths are protected by our constitution; whatever religion people believe in, they have to abide by the law, so some of the lawbreakers have been detained because of their violation of law not because of their religious belief.»

He added: «Although I´m the president of this country, I have no right to interfere in judicial affairs, because of judicial independence.»

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