Chinese Students Like Bush´s Views on Rights and Religious Freedom

But Taiwan Is Another Matter

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BEIJING, FEB. 22, 2002 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Chinese students were enthusiastic about what U.S. President George W. Bush said on human rights and religious freedom, but not happy with his views regarding Taiwan, the Vatican agency Fides reported.

On his last day in China today, Bush gave a speech at Qinghua University and fielded questions from students. The event was broadcast live on national television.

The choice of campus was not by chance: Qinghua, with Beida, Beijing University, prepares China´s scientific and economic elite. More important, Qinghua is the alma mater of deputy president Hu Jintao, whom many see as President Jiang Zemin´s successor.

In a relaxed speech, Bush showed the evolution of U.S.-Chinese relations in the 30 years since Richard Nixon´s visit. Bush also spoke about certain aspects of American life.

«America is a nation guided by faith,» he said. «Someone once called us ´a nation with the soul of a church´; 95% of Americans say they believe in God, and I´m one of them.»

Underlining the importance of a religious belief to mold society, Bush told the students: «Freedom of religion is not something to be feared but to be welcomed, because faith gives us a moral core and teaches us to hold ourselves to high standards, to love and serve others, and to live responsible lives.»

The U.S. president also stressed the spontaneity and freedom with which the people of the United States acted after the Sept. 11 attacks, with generous volunteers, solidarity, donations and prayers. «None of this was ordered by the government; it happened spontaneously by the initiative of a free people,» he emphasized.

Recalling the different steps of China´s progress, Bush continued: «Change is coming: tens of millions of Chinese today are relearning Buddhist, Taoist and local religious traditions, or practicing Christianity, Islam and other faiths. Regardless of where or how these believers worship, they are no threat to public order; in fact they make good citizens. For centuries, this country had a tradition of religious tolerance.»

He added: «My prayer is that all persecution will end so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish. All of these changes will lead to a stronger, more confident China, a China that can astonish and enrich the world, a China that your generation will help create.»

Huang Huilian, a student at the Social Communications Faculty, told Fides that she and her friends were impressed by what Bush had to say, particularly the «view of American lifestyle, the value of religion, faith, freedom, family and equality.» But she said that «his answer regarding a peaceful solution for the reunification of Taiwan was not clear.»

Pressed by questions on U.S. policy regarding Taiwan, Bush confirmed his commitment to «one China» but also the need for «peaceful dialogue» between the two shores of the strait, adding: «We will help Taiwan to protect herself if she is provoked.»

Other students said they were «satisfied and enthusiastic» on the whole with what the president had to say, but they contended that his answers were not always direct.

The ordinary people of Beijing seemed to show disappointment, however. An office worker told journalists: «The meetings yesterday with Jiang and today´s at the university, are only diplomacy. Neither Jiang nor Bush touch the country´s most urgent problem: unemployment.»

China´s jobless will be more than 132 million this year, the People´s Daily reported.

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