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US President Bush “Shares” Christian Faith with Chinese Counterpart (BosNewsLife In-Depth)

Monday, 29 May 2006

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)– United States President George W. Bush, who calls himself a ‘born-again’ Christian, “shared” his faith in Christ with the current and previous president of China during personal meetings, where he also expressed his concern over religious rights violations in the Communist-run nation, according to a transcript obtained by BosNewsLife Monday, May 29.

“I shared my faith as well as my concept of freedom with [former Chinese President] Mr. Jiang Zemin the first time I met him, hoping to reduce his anxiety,” Bush told representatives of China ‘s ‘underground’ house churches May 11 in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House.

“And I also talked about this [Christian faith] with [Chinese President] Mr. Hu Jintao later. This is not only my personal faith, but also the faith of our nation,” Bush said, according to a transcript released Monday, May 29.

He made the comments during a one-hour meeting with Yu Jie, a best-seller author and Elder of the Beijing Ark House Church, Wang Yi, a religious rights defender and professor of law at Chengdu University in Sichuan province and Dr. Li Baiguang, who was named “Person of the Year” by Newsweek magazine in Asia last year for his civil education work for the rule of law among farmers and religious minority groups.

The president agreed with Yu Jie’s suggestion to have the US Embassy in China regularly invite key figures including persecuted Christians, opposition writers, human rights lawyers and reporters to show support for religious freedom.

COLLEGE CLASSMATE

“This is a very good suggestion. Our ambassador in China is my college classmate, and he is also a close friend of mine, he is a pious Christian and a clever person who can see through the affairs clearly. I will pass on your suggestion to him quickly,” Bush said, after Yu told him that the American Embassy in China “seems too cautious,” when dealing with human and religious rights.

Bush also said he understood concerns among the church leaders over actions taken by some American firms in China , including Internet giant Yahoo!, whose behavior the president described as “wrongdoing.”

Yu told Bush that Yahoo!’s decision to provide “some private data to the China police, caused the arrests of four Chinese writers, including my friend, Shi Tao.” He said, ” They were mistreated in prison” and added that the “moral foundation of the United States has been violated by the actions of Yahoo!, and the event also destroyed the image of the United States in the hearts of Chinese people.”

President Bush stressed he understood the criticism but added that it was impossible for him to intervene as “those companies are private companies, and they have their own interest.” However he noticed “that these cases are extensively reported recently by the media and many shareholders are also shocked.”

COMPANIES WRONGDOING

Bush said, “I believe those companies will stop their wrongdoing under the pressure from the shareholders and media,” according to a transcript of the conversation as provided by the house church officials. He added however that US-China trade relations should continue as even Yu’s wife is employed by an American company to provide financial support for her family.

“Some suggest that America should block China , and cease trade with China . I do not agree with them. I hold the viewpoint of a free economy. I think expanding trade can bring some unimaginable changes to China , ” he explained.

“The opening of the economic system and [more] freedom are related. The case of you and your wife is a very good example,” Bush said, adding that this does not mean America would give up “concerns over human rights because of trade.”

The president said he had telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of her visit to Beijing to urge her to raise the issue of human rights with the Chinese government.

EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

The meeting with Bush was an emotional experience for the three house church representatives who said they all suffered in China because of their faith. “Two years ago, I was arrested because of launching a report on the issue of Chinese Human Rights. A plain clothed policeman threatened to silence me by way of a traffic accident,” Yu explained. “I am still praying for the policemen because they do not know what they are doing. I have a lot to learn from [ US human rights fighter] Martin Luther King at this point.”

Li Baiguang tried to play down his own reported suffering in prison. “The police did not beat me; I only underwent the experience of taking a cold shower in winter for a month. The water was so cold that it pierced into my bones. But it was a good exercise,” he said. Li urged Bush to support his efforts “to apply for Mr. Yang Zili, an opposition writer who is now in prison, the right of being baptized, worshiping God, and reading the Bible in prison. The Chinese Christians have ceased to enjoy this right in prison since 1949,” when the Communists took control, he said.

President Bush said appreciated Li’s involvement in translating the book “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror,” written by Nathan Sharansky, a former Soviet Union writer and dissident, who met Bush in the White House.

Despite reports of ongoing persecution, President Bush was told that house churches continue to grow in China . Human rights groups estimate that most of China’s roughly 80-million Christians worship in ‘house-churches’ named this way as they are held in homes of believers as they do not receive permissions to use buildings.

BUSH’S DREAM

Bush said he was dreaming of the day that house church believers would massively turn up to register themselves with the authorities to see how the government would react and he urged them to express their faith in Christ more publicly, according to the transcript obtained by BosNewsLife.

Chinese authorities have said that Christians are free to worship in the government backed churches, but many Chinese Christians say that would mean compromising their Christian faith with the Communist ideology.

“This picture is also my dream. The Gospel is being spread in every corner of the country [and that] Christians can demonstrate their faith publicly without feeling ashamed of the Gospel,” Wang Yi said. “Today’s meeting may lead to this picture.”

Yu Jie compared the struggle of Chinese Christians with the massacre of students who demonstrated for more freedom in Tiananmen Square in 1989. “Mr. President; do you remember the brave young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989? Many Christians will stand up to defend their faith and freedom bravely like him,” he said.

PERSONAL MOMENTS

There were some personal moments as well. Bush expressed admiration for Yu Jie and Wang Yi for saying their wives were an inspiration for them as they became Christians before them and support their work. The president said Laura Bush had helped him to become a true Christian by abandoning “the bad habit of drinking.”

He ended the meeting with a prayer for the house church representatives, their families and the Christians in China . At least one house church representative was wearing the same shirt as when he was brought to prison by Chinese police.

“I was very tired and had a nap after lunch and woke up at 5 PM in the hotel. When I took off my necktie, suddenly, I remembered that 8 years before I had worn this same shirt when I was arrested and put in prison,” said Li. “I decided to preserve this white shirt to commemorate these historical events in my life. In the past 8 years it has witnessed the wonderful guidance by God of His servant.”

This was the first time a sitting American President met Chinese house church officials. Besides Bush others attending the talks and prayer included, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Bush’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, Presidential Senior Advisor Michael Gerson and White House press secretary Tony Snow. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Washington and China ).