U.S. Concerned for Human Rights in China

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The recent disappearance of two Chinese human rights activists has highlighted China's poor human rights record despite government promises to the world to improve.

On Friday, a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said the U.S. is concerned over the missing activists, who went missing around the start the Beijing Olympics.

The discussion among Foreign Ministry officials highlighted the plights of Hua Huiqi, a leader in Beijing's underground church, and Zeng Jinyan, a blogger and wife of AIDS activist Hu Jia, according to Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

"We encourage the government of China to demonstrate respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, of all people during the Olympic Games," Stevenson said. She declined to give more specific details on the meeting.

Relatives of Hua say the underground church leader was taken by security agents while on his way to a state-sanctioned worship service President Bush attended the Sunday after the opening ceremonies.

Hua has been arrested and beaten several times over the last few years because of his religious activities. He's even served six months in jail for "obstructing official business."

The disappearance of high-profile activists, along with China's intense crackdown on protests, has several groups saying that China failed to live up to its promise to improve its human rights record - a key factor in its successful bid to host the games.

"The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end - once and for all - to the notion that these Olympics are a 'force for good,'" said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"The reality is that the Chinese government's hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression."

Olympics organizers promised to set aside three protest zones in the city during the competition, but all of the 77 applications for permits to protest were either withdrawn or rejected.

Source: The Associated Press, Human Rights Watch

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