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US Congressman Urges China to Release Businessman - 2002-01-09


A U.S. Congressman visiting Beijing is urging China to release a Hong Kong businessman arrested after he shipped Bibles into the country. The Congressman is also asking for help to resolve cases of other detentions - even as he applauds China's cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

U.S. Representative Tom Lantos says he urged Chinese leaders to resolve the case of Hong Kong resident Li Guangqiang, arrested for distributing banned cult publications. Mr. Lantos says Wednesday that he raised Mr. Li's case with Chinese Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, and every leader he met during his two-day visit to Beijing.

The California Democrat - a member of the House International Relations Committee - tells reporters in Beijing that he opposes "book burning," and that if China pursues the case, it will cause incalculable damage to U.S.-China relations. "We would hope that China will evolve to the point where it will recognize that people in a free society can make their own judgments about documents put out by religious organizations, whether those religious organizations be Christian churches, Muslim groups or the Falun Gong," he said. "The threat is the suppression of religion, not the distribution of religious documents."

China said Tuesday Mr. Li shipped thousands of cult booklets from Hong Kong to Fuqing in the southeast, and used Bibles as a pretext for assisting a banned cult. Beijing says a local court is now handling his case.

Mr. Lantos says he also raised other human rights cases with Chinese leaders, including that of U.S. based businessman, Liu Yaping, held in Inner Mongolia for five months. Mr. Lantos gave China's vice-premier a letter, saying that Mr. Liu needs urgent medical treatment for a life threatening brain aneurysm.

Mr. Liu has reportedly been arrested for fraud and tax evasion. But in the letter addressed to President Jiang Zemin, the Congressman says that Mr. Liu's detention violates Chinese law.

Even as he criticized China's human rights violations, Mr. Lantos says he thanked Chinese leaders for their decision to help the United States fight terrorism. "I anticipate going ahead that U.S.-China relations will be on an entirely different footing than they have been for decades now," said Tom Lantos. "China has decided on this issue that will divide the world into two parts: people who are fighting for civilization, and people who are encouraging or supporting or harboring chaos and anarchy."

Mr. Lantos has been a strong critic of China in Congress. He argued against Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics, and opposed normal trade relations with China until it improved human rights record.

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