China expresses hope Bush visit eases political differences

The Chinese government on Tuesday expressed hope that U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Beijing will ease political differences, but warned against what it called interference in its affairs over human rights.

Bush arrives Saturday in Beijing and is to meet with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders.

"We hope the differences between the two sides can be narrowed through dialogue," said Liu Jianchao, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry. But he rejected "interfering in other countries' internal affairs on the pretext of human rights."

"We don't think that will contribute to narrowing differences or building up mutual understanding," Liu said.

The Bush administration has persistently tried to pressure China to improve human rights, with the president talking publicly about the importance of religious freedom.

During an appearance in 2002 at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Bush sat on stage with then-Vice President Hu, a graduate of the school, and said, "My prayer is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish" reports the AP. I.L.

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