President Bush, 11/20/05:
It is important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China. And we encourage China to continue making the historic transition to greater freedom.
But Bush proved today that he isn’t serious about pushing China on human rights, and China isn’t serious about reforming. Instead of calling for greater freedoms, Bush acquiesced to a Chinese demand to allow no unscripted questions at the press briefing, despite standard protocol.
At today’s briefing, the White House allowed only one scripted softball question about human rights, in effect allowing Hu to avoid facing any of the embarrassing facts about China’s abysmal human rights record. Hu’s answer was rather ironic:
QUESTION: President Hu, when will China become a democracy with free elections?
PRESIDENT HU: I don’t know — what do you mean by a democracy? … China has…been actively, properly, and appropriately moved forward the political restructuring process, and we have always been expanding the democracy and freedoms for the Chinese citizens.
The reality is that oppression in China continues to thrive. From 2002-2005, China has received Freedom House’s lowest score on political rights, even as it grows “increasingly adept at using the tools of technology to repress free expression and dissent.”
UPDATE: It does not appear that the questions yesterday were scripted. Instead, the White House limited the session to a few “pool” reporters, under a “mutual agreement” with the Chinese, who did not want a more public setting.