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China Regrets Cancellation by Religious Freedom Commission

China says it regrets that a U.S. commission has canceled a visit to assess religious freedoms. But the government is giving no reason for its decision to bar the group from holding meetings in the Hong Kong.

The U.S. Commission on International Freedom - a government entity - says it had canceled a trip to China for the second time this year after Beijing refused to let its members meet with people in Hong Kong.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday appeared to blame the commission for the postponement. He said both sides failed to reach an agreement on the schedule after the commission submitted a schedule change at the last moment.

The group decided to postpone the visit and China regrets the postponement. Mr. Liu did not say why China did not want the commission to hold meetings in Hong Kong. The postponement comes as Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits the United States.

U.S. officials, including President Bush, were expected to raise the issue of religious freedom with the prime minister.

Washington has long expressed concern over China's treatment of people who worship outside state-registered churches as well as Muslims in western China and followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. The State Department says the government commits "egregious violations of religious freedom."

Although the Falun Gong is banned on the mainland, followers are allowed to practice it in Hong Kong.