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George Bush: Religious Persecution "Unworthy" of China's Past, Future, May 3, 2001

U.S. State Department Excerpts of President Bush's Comments on Religious Freedom to the American Jewish Committee.

George Bush: Religious Persecution
"Unworthy" of China's Past, Future
May 3, 2001

U.S. State Department Excerpts of President Bush's Comments on Religious Freedom to the American Jewish Committee.

Addressing the American Jewish Committee in Washington May 3, President Bush said America's rejection of religious bigotry over the years has matured "from a foundation of our domestic politics into a guiding doctrine of our foreign policy."

Calling religious freedom "the first freedom of the human soul," Bush said the United States "must speak for that freedom in the world."

Bush noted attacks on religious freedom in countries such as Sudan and Burma, but said that the United States views "with special concern the intensifying attacks on religious freedom in China."

"China aspires to national strength and greatness. But these acts of persecution are acts of fear -- and therefore of weakness," Bush said.

Bush singled out Beijing's "harsh and unjust persecution" of traditional Tibetan religious practices and "arrest and abuse" of Falun Gong practitioners.

He also criticized general restrictions on independent religious expression, the detention of worshippers and religious leaders, and the desecration and destruction of churches and mosques.

"This persecution is unworthy of all that China has been -- a civilization with a history of tolerance. And this persecution is unworthy of all that China should become -- an open society that respects the spiritual dignity of its people," Bush said.

Following are excerpts of Bush's prepared remarks:

AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE REMARKS BY PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH May 3, 2001

... I believe in equal opportunity for all, without discrimination or prejudice of any kind.

I believe that tolerance and respect must be taught to all our children, because too many young minds and souls are lost to hate and rage....

Understanding my Administration should not be difficult. We will speak up for our principles ...

... the deep American commitment to freedom of religion.

That commitment was expressed early and eloquently by our first President, George Washington, in his famous letter to the Touro synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. He argued for an attitude beyond mere tolerance -- a respect for the inherent and equal right of everyone to worship God as they think best. 'The Government of the United States,' he said, 'which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.'

Over the years, Washington's rejection of religious bigotry has matured from a foundation of our domestic politics into a guiding doctrine of our foreign policy....

We view with special concern the intensifying attacks on religious freedom in China. In many respects, China has made great strides toward freedom in recent decades. China's economy has opened. Chinese people enjoy greater personal mobility, more secure property rights, and enlarged access to information. These are not small achievements. And they promise even greater change.

But the Chinese government continues to display an unreasonable and unworthy suspicion of freedom of conscience.

The Chinese government restricts independent religious expression. We hear alarming reports of the detention of worshippers and religious leaders. Churches and mosques have been vandalized or demolished. Traditional religious practices in Tibet have long been the target of especially harsh and unjust persecution. And most recently, adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have been singled out for arrest and abuse.

China aspires to national strength and greatness. But these acts of persecution are acts of fear -- and therefore of weakness. This persecution is unworthy of all that China has been -- a civilization with a history of tolerance. And this persecution is unworthy of all that China should become -- an open society that respects the spiritual dignity of its people.

No one is a better witness to the transience of tyranny than the children of Abraham. Forty centuries ago, the Jewish people were entrusted with a truth more enduring than any power of man. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: 'This shall be My covenant with them, said the Lord: My spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have placed in your mouth, shall not be absent from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children's children -- said the Lord -- from now on, for all time.'

It is not an accident that freedom of religion is one of the central freedoms in our Bill of Rights. It is the first freedom of the human soul -- the right to speak the words that God places in our mouths. We must stand for that freedom in our country. We must speak for that freedom in the world. And I thank the American Jewish Committee for your willingness to do both.

Source: The Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov

 

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