Bush sees "change" coming to China

Other News Materials 7 August 2008 09:14 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US President George W Bush said Thursday that he was "optimistic" about China's future, predicting that political change was inevitable in the wake of its economic takeoff.

"Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas, especially on an unrestricted internet," Bush said in Bangkok in his last major policy speech on US-Asian relations. "Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and traditions. Yet change will arrive."

Bush, whose presidency ends in January, claimed the United States' diplomatic engagement with Asia over the past seven years under his administration had helped bring in a period of economic prosperity and stability in Asia.

Its active, constructive engagement had also placed the United States in a good position to make criticisms where necessary, Bush said.

" America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists," Bush said in addressing an audience of about 500 at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre.

The president also used his Asia farewell speech to slam Myanmar, also known as Burma, which has notched up one of the world's worst human rights records over the past two decades.

"We seek an end to tyranny in Burma," Bush said. " America reiterates our call on Burma's military junta to release [opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, and we will continue working until the people of Burma have the freedom they deserve."

Both Bush and his wife, Laura, used their Bangkok visit to highlight the political situation in neighbouring Myanmar, which has been under military dictatorships since 1962.

President Bush was scheduled to have lunch with prominent Myanmar dissidents Thursday before departing for Beijing, where he is to attend Friday's opening ceremony for the Olympic Games.

Laura Bush visited a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border for Karens, one of several ethnic groups fighting Myanmar's junta, and a clinic run by a Karen doctor, Cynthia Maung.

President Bush on Wednesday night praised Thailand's role in accommodating thousands of refugees from its less well-developed neighbours.

He chose to stop in Thailand in part to mark the two countries' 175th year of diplomatic relations, making Thailand the oldest US ally in the region. Prior to Thailand, he visited South Korea on his weeklong, three-nation Asia trip.