Reuters: President George W. Bush on Monday criticized China, Saudi Arabia and Iran on religious freedoms, but said progress had been made in some countries, including Vietnam.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush on Monday criticized China, Saudi Arabia and Iran on religious freedoms, but said progress had been made in some countries, including Vietnam.
Bush in deciding to attend the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics next month rejected calls by human rights groups to boycott the start of the summer games as a statement about abuses in China.
Bush, who met Chinese President Hu Jintao last week on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit, has said he would discuss human rights with the Chinese leader.
"In my message to President Hu Jintao, when I last met him, was this: 'So long as there are those who want to fight for their liberty, the United States stands with them,'" Bush said in marking the 10th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act.
"And we also honor the courage of the Dalai Lama and the Buddhists in Tibet," he said.
A deadly riot erupted in Tibet in March and triggered a government crackdown that led to protests that followed the international leg of the Olympic torch relay.
China has accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and his followers of plotting the riots to sabotage the Olympics. The Dalai Lama has denied the charge.
Bush also cited Saudi Arabia and Iran.
"We remember those seeking religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, where the religious police continue to arrest non-Muslims, yet where we also believe reforms pledged by King Abdullah can bring real change," he said.
"Today, we remember those seeking religious freedom in Iran, where the regime's anti-Semitism has provoked global outrage," Bush said.
Other countries where religious freedoms were being repressed, according to Bush, included Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Eritrea and Sudan.
In North Korea, "those caught practicing faiths other than the state ideology are imprisoned, and people found with Bibles can be executed," Bush said.
He said there were hopeful signs also. In Uzbekistan recent agreements gave hope that abuses would not be repeated in the future, and Vietnam's government has reopened many of the churches it had shut down.
"Today, we urge the leaders of all these countries to immediately end their abuses of religious freedom. We urge these leaders to respect the rights of those who seek only to worship their god as they see fit," Bush said.
(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by David Wiessler)