China defends rights record after Bush speech


Beijing : China defended its human rights record Thursday after US President George W. Bush gave a speech criticizing its lack of political and religious freedom.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said his government “puts people first” and was committed to promoting “basic rights and freedom” for the nation’s 1.3 billion people.

“We firmly oppose any words or acts that interfere in other countries’ internal affairs by using human rights, religion and other issues,” Qin said in a statement reacting to Bush’s speech in Thailand earlier Thursday.

He said differences over rights should be resolved through dialogue “based on equal footing and mutual respect.”

Bush said the US stood “in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists.”

In his address to about 500 people at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre in Bangkok, he said he was “optimistic” about China’s future, predicting that political change was inevitable in the wake of its economic takeoff.

“Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas, especially on an unrestricted internet,” Bush said in his last major policy speech on US-Asian relations.

“Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and traditions,” he said. “Yet change will arrive.”

Bush was scheduled to arrive in Beijing late Thursday evening for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday.

The two presidents are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics Friday night, along with some 80 other heads of state.

Qin appeared to play down any Chinese anger over Bush’s speech, saying the two nations enjoyed a “broad common interest and a basis for cooperation despite some disputes”.

“A good Sino-US relationship is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, as well as the peace, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” he said in his statement.