Whoops. On the very day that the New York Times takes President Bush harshly to task for failing to promote human rights in China, the president meets at the White House . . . . with five Chinese human rights activists.
Railed the Times in this morning's editorial, Past Time for Speaking Out:
Two weeks before he goes to the Beijing Olympic Games, President Bush remains unacceptably silent about China’s crackdown on basic human rights.
[H]is refusal to speak out publicly and clearly about China’s repressive behavior is an abdication of leadership and a blot on his record.
But just hours later, the president was hosting the group of Chinese activists, in a meeting that had been planned in advance. The White House press secretary put out this statement on the meeting:
Today in The White House Residence, President Bush met with five Chinese freedom activists to discuss his concerns about human rights in China. The President assured them that he will carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing for the games, just as he has regularly made this a priority in all of his meetings with Chinese officials. He told the activists that engagement with Chinese leaders gives him an opportunity to make the United States' position clear - human rights and religious freedom should not be denied to anyone.
President George W. Bush poses for a photo at the South Portico entrance to the White House Tuesday, July 28, 2008, with Chinese Human Rights Activists, from left, Ciping Huang, Wei Jingsheng, Sasha Gong, Alim Seytoff, interpreter; Rebiya Kadeer, Harry Wu and Bob Fu, following their meeting at the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper The President met with Harry Wu, Wei Jingsheng, Rebiya Kadeer, Dr. Sasha Gong, and Bob Fu. The President asked them about their personal experiences in their peaceful efforts to press for more freedom in China. The group welcomed the President's strong commitment to human rights and religious freedom and urged him to continue to deliver that message not only to the Chinese leadership but also to all the people of China.
President Bush also dropped by a meeting his National Security Advisor had this morning with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. The President reviewed current bilateral relations with the Foreign Minister; as well as his desire to see a successful Olympics, and noted that this presents the Chinese with an opportunity to demonstrate compassion on human rights and freedom.
Moreover, the President has taken a number of actions in the run-up to the Olympics to underline his support of human rights in China:
July 14, 2008: President Bush made clear that the United States stands with human rights activists during remarks honoring the 10th Anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act.
• "We remember those seeking religious freedom in China, and we honor those who press for their liberties -- people like Uighur Muslims. I had the honor of meeting Rebiya Kadeer. I've also had the honor of meeting those who attend underground churches in China. And we also honor the courage of the Dalai Lama, and the Buddhists in Tibet.
• "And you know, last month here at the White House I met with a Chinese dissident named Li Baiguang. He's a lawyer who worked on human rights cases; he's a 'house church' Protestant. For his work, he's been repeatedly jailed and attacked. A few weeks ago, he was scheduled to meet with members of Congress. State authorities blocked the meeting and detained Li on the outskirts of Beijing. … And my message to President Hu Jintao, when I last met him, was this: So long as there are those who want to fight for their liberty, the United States stands with them."
July 9, 2008: President Bush met with Chinese President Hu Jintao while attending the G8 conference in Toyako, Japan. There, President Bush said "the President and I have constantly had discussions about human rights and political freedom. He knows my position. And as I told our people, Mr. President, I don't need the Olympics to talk candidly with somebody who I've got good relations with."
June 23, 2008: President Bush met with Chinese recipients of the NED Annual Freedom Awards and those representing them--including Li Baiguang, Li HePing, and Wang Tienchang.
Standing by for update and clarification from the Times . . .