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Bush urged to encourage Chinese believers

WASHINGTON (BP)–The right words from President Bush in Beijing could prove extremely helpful to many Christians suffering in China, said a leading advocate for the persecuted church in that country.

After meeting with Bush in the White House, Bob Fu said he is hopeful the president will speak out on the Chinese communist regime’s abuses of religious liberty and other human rights. Bush met with Fu and four other Chinese freedom activists July 29. The president plans to attend the Summer Olympics, which begin officially Aug. 8 in Beijing.

Baptist Press asked Fu, president of China Aid Association, what he would like Bush to say publicly after a church worship service he is planning to attend while in Beijing.

“I would like him to say to the Chinese leaders that these meetings of unregistered or independent churches and believers, they are not a threat to the society, even the Chinese government ruling, because they have been praying” for the government officials and working peacefully, Fu told BP. “I also would like him to tell the Chinese people … the American people stand in solidarity with the freedom fighters of China, and they won’t be ignored.

“[T]hese types of messages will really encourage hundreds of thousands” still in jail, Fu said. “Many believers and imprisoned pastors will be greatly encouraged.”

At the White House meeting, Bush said he will speak publicly and to Chinese President Hu Jintao about the need for full religious freedom, Fu said.

If the president fulfills his commitment, “he could make a good impact for China to be opening more,” Fu said.

“The last thing I want to see is he would cave in to the Chinese government [and business interests and lobbyists in the United States] by keeping silent,” Fu said. “But I’m more hopeful now after meeting with him in person, and the past few days the White House has been more vocal on these issues instead of what they have been the last few months.”

Fu said he urged Bush to attend an unregistered church instead of a registered one while in China, and he gave the president a list of house churches in Beijing that would welcome him. However, Fu said he believes Bush will attend a registered church.

Fu said he gave the president the names of some Christians imprisoned in China, and Bush told him he would bring them up with Chinese officials. Fu said he also encouraged the president to meet with human rights advocates and he gave Bush “Prayer for China” wrist bands and encouraged him to wear them as a sign of support for China’s people.

In a 2005 visit to China, Bush participated in a worship service at a registered church and said in a public statement afterward he desired for the communist government not to fear religious adherents.

Fu, a native of China, founded the China Aid Association after he and his family fled to the United States in 1996. Before his conversion to Christ, Fu was a leader in the student democracy movement that was smashed at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. He became a house church pastor and a founder, along with his wife, Heidi, of a Bible school before being arrested and jailed in 1996.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission presented Fu with its 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award.

China Aid monitors and reports on religious persecution by the Chinese government, especially of the unregistered church, which Fu has said consists of from 60 to 80 million adherents.

In addition to Fu, the human rights leaders who met with Bush in the White House are Wei Jingsheng, a dissident who spent nearly 20 years in prison; Harry Wu, who was imprisoned for 19 years in labor camps; Rebiya Kadeer, an advocate for the Uighur Muslims who was an inmate for five years; and Sasha Gong, who established an underground group of dissidents and served a year in jail.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington bureau chief.