Bush urged to raise prisoners' rights with China
Human rights activists sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday urging him to raise the cases of 23 political prisoners when he attends the Beijing Olympics next month.
The list includes Chinese lawyers and HIV/AIDS activists, adherents of the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect, Christians, Muslim Uighurs and Tibetan Buddhists accused of separatism, and South Koreans caught trying to help North Korean refugees get out of China.
One author of the letter, Suzanne Scholte, told a news conference she hoped Bush and other Americans attending the games would wear wristbands saying "Free North Koreans".
"When Beijing was chosen as the site of the 2008 Olympics, it was a wonderful cause of celebration for the people of China, but it came with a promise from the government of China that human rights would be improved," said Scholte, who heads the North Korea Freedom Coalition.
"Tragically, we know now that the opposite has occurred as preparations for the Olympics have led to greater human rights abuses against the Tibetans, Uighurs, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and for my cause, North Korean refugees."
Thousands of North Koreans have fled across the border to escape hunger and oppression in their hardline communist homeland. They face deportation by China, which views them as economic migrants.
The letter to Bush, which contained photos and details of the prisoners, said raising their cases "would address the concerns of the largest groups of people suffering persecution in China, and would give the Chinese regime an opportunity to show good faith in making amends with these groups."
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush has "no plans to wear any wristbands," adding that he had communicated his position on human rights to China's leaders directly, Reuters reported.