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Bush Urges More Freedom in China, Burma


President Bush says China should give its people more freedoms, holding up rival Taiwan as an example of successful Asian democracy.

In the keynote address of his eight-day trip to Asia, President Bush called on Chinese leaders to give their people greater freedoms to express themselves, to worship without state control and to print Bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment.

"As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is open even a crack, it cannot be closed," he stated. "As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well."

By meeting what he calls the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness, President Bush says Chinese leaders can help their country grow into a modern, prosperous and confident nation.

In contrast, Mr. Bush says modern Taiwan has moved from repression to democracy as it has liberalized its economy - advancing freedom at all levels and delivering prosperity, while creating a democratic Chinese society.

In a speech at Kyoto's Kaikan Hall, President Bush said his critique of China and praise for rival Taiwan does not change America's one-China policy, stressing the need for dialogue to resolve their differences, peacefully.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing brushed off the president's call for greater political freedoms, telling reporters on the sidelines of a regional economic summit that the Chinese people need to work hard and not pay attention to those who talk about this or that, upsetting their sense of self, especially when it comes to what he called their love of the motherland.

The president's criticism of China came in a lengthy address about democracy in Asia and America's role in encouraging greater freedoms. He accuses the military in Burma of widespread abuses including rape, torture, execution, forced labor and religious persecution.

"The people of Burma live in the darkness of tyranny; but the light of freedom shines in their hearts," he said. "They want their liberty and, one day, they will have it."

President Bush says North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens to destabilize the region. As the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea work to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program, Mr. Bush says diplomatic efforts must be backed by firm resolve.

"We will not forget the people of North Korea. The 21st Century will be freedom's century for all Koreans," he said. "And, one day every citizen of that peninsula will live in dignity and freedom and prosperity at home and in peace with their neighbors abroad."

President Bush says the people of Asia have made clear their desire for freedom. He says their countries will only be tranquil when they are led by governments of, by and for the people.