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Bush Urges China to Grant its People More Religious Freedoms

President Bush is in China where he says the government should grant its people greater religious freedoms. So he opened his day in Beijing by going to church.

A choir in white silk robes sang the hymn Ode to Joy as the president and Mrs. Bush left Gangwashi Church. It is one of five authorized protestant churches in the capital and remains under control of China's Communist Party.

But White House officials say it is a real church where real people of faith really do worship and it is important for the Chinese people to see that expression of faith is a good thing for a health and mature society.

President Bush thanked Pastor Du Fengying for her sermon based on a passage from Corinthians that love is tolerance, trust, and perseverance. Mr. Bush said the spirit of the Lord is strong inside her church. "You know, it wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty," he said.

President Bush signed the church guest book asking God to bless the Christians in China. Printing bibles is still illegal here and President Bush is calling on the government to allow their people to worship without state control and print Bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment.

Religious freedom is expected to part of the president's discussion with Chinese leaders here.

Foreign Minister spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters that the Chinese people fully enjoy democracy and freedom including religious beliefs protected by law.

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