November 10, 2005

China criticizes Bush for meeting Dalai Lama

BEIJING (Reuters) - China criticized U.S. President George
W. Bush on Thursday for meeting the Dalai Lama and dismissed
Washington's annual report on religious freedom as groundless,
but said the issues would not overshadow Bush's visit to

Bush met the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, at the
White House on Wednesday, a day after his administration named
China a serious violator of religious freedom in a report to

"The Dalai Lama is not a simple or a pure religious figure.
He is a political exile. We oppose the meeting of him with
other leaders," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao
told a regular news briefing.

"Other leaders should not provide a platform for him to
separate the country," he said.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against
Chinese Communist rule and leads a government-in-exile. While
in Washington, he called the atmosphere in Tibet "very

Liu said the State Department's annual report on religious
freedom, which said China restricts religious practice to
state-sanctioned groups, made groundless accusations.

"We ask the U.S. to stop interfering in China's religious
affairs under the guise of the religion issue," Liu said.

"All people in all regions in China enjoy religious freedom
in accordance with the law."

China sentenced a Protestant minister, his wife and her
brother to prison terms of up to three years earlier this week
for illegally printing Bibles and other Christian publications,
one of their lawyers said.

China's ruling Communist Party also objects to allegiance
to any authority other than its own, meaning its Catholics are
not allowed to recognize the authority of the Pope and belong
to a state-backed church.

A parallel, underground church exists alongside, but
China's rules mean it has not had diplomatic relations with the
Vatican since the 1950s.

The religious freedom report and the wrangling over the
Dalai Lama raise the thorny issue of human rights record ahead
of Bush's November 19-21 trip, but Liu said it would not
overshadow the visit.

"The importance will not be diminished by a single
incident," he said. "The visit will achieve its planned goals."