Bush and Jiang on the Issue of Religious Freedom

U.S. Aide Tells Details of Their Discussion

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BEIJING, FEB. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt from U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice´s press conference Thursday in Beijing. She spoke about President George W. Bush´s request to Chinese leader Jiang Zemin for more religious freedom in China.

The White House released the original transcript of the conference.

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Shangri-la Hotel
Beijing, People´s Republic of China

Rice: Good afternoon. I´d like to just provide a little bit of a readout of the meetings this morning with President Jiang, and then I´d be happy to take your questions.

It was a very good discussion this morning. The Presidents met for an extended period of time in a relatively small group of people, and then went to an extended bilateral group….

They had an extensive discussion of religious freedom and a really rather long exchange, with the President encouraging President Jiang to think hard about opening dialogue with religious communities and with religious figures.
He mentioned specifically the importance of dialogue with the Vatican and with the Dalai Lama, but also with other organized religions, and suggested that perhaps some of them might be invited here to the country.

You probably know that President Jiang has had a working group on religion. And the President said that this was an opportunity, perhaps, to have some people here to talk about religious affairs. …

Q: Can you characterize President Jiang´s response to the religious freedom discussion? And did the President, as was suggested, talk about his own faith experience with President Jiang?

Rice: Well, if you remember, Bill, at Shanghai, the President talked at some length about his own personal religious beliefs, and he, in fact, thanked President Jiang for his willingness to listen to the President talk about that, and to listen to his explanation of how important religious life has been for the American people.

The President talked more this time about perhaps using the opportunities before China to engage religious communities about the value that religion had played in the United States during the time that we´ve just been through, as a kind of stabilizing and calming force for the American people, and his desire and hope that this could be a period in which China would begin to reach out to religious communities.

It was a very friendly discussion. President Jiang was interactive on it, talked, as he mentioned in the press conference, about the fact that even though he, himself, is not a religious man, he´s interested in religious subjects, has read most of the religious great books. So it was very interactive.

But the President´s emphasis was on opening dialogue with perhaps representatives of Dalai Lama, with the Vatican, and with other religious groups.

Q: Does that mean he did not raise specific cases, the cases of the Falun Gong and bishops —

Rice: Those cases have been raised by American officials at a number of levels, as well as by the President in Shanghai. But he talked more institutionally this time about China moving forward on a commitment to religious freedom. It was a very interesting and pretty deep discussion.

Q: Just to follow up, when Jiang said that he believed the bishops who were in prison were there because they had broken the law, did you believe him?

Rice: Well, I think our view is that these bishops need to be — that the Chinese government needs to release them. And we´ve made that clear. We´ve made that clear at a number of levels. The Catholic Church has made that clear. And the President has really asked the Chinese leadership to engage the Catholic Church, which is really the way that much of this will be resolved.

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