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By Ashly McGlone
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) A federal religious freedom watchdog panel on Wednesday (July 30) asked President Bush to use his trip to the Beijing Olympics next month to speak publicly against abuses of religious freedom and human rights in China.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, joined by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, also voiced support for a resolution pending in Congress that urges China to end all human rights violations.
“We were in the White House and I told Bush that he had made a horrible mistake to go to the Beijing Olympics,” said Wei Jingsheng, one of five Chinese freedom activists who met with Bush on Tuesday (July 29).
“I do know that the Bush administration did try to push for human rights. Unfortunately, such an effort did not make much progress. Not only is there no improvement, as a matter of fact, human rights have gone backwards.”
In addition to a televised speech, the joint appeal asks Bush to urge the Chinese government to end religious oppression, to release detained religious leaders and groups, and to urge China to use its “considerable leverage” with Sudan to end the genocide in Darfur.
“Hopes that the Olympic Games would dramatically improve human rights conditions in China have not been realized,” said Felice D. Gaer, the commission’s chairwoman. “Instead, the situation has grown increasingly dire, particularly for many of China’s religious adherents.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., an outspoken opponent of China’s human rights record, said granting the 2008 Olympics to China was a “terrible mistake.”
“When you see all the choreography smiling faces in opening ceremonies, know that they are the lucky ones,” he said.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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