Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chinese blocked visit by U.S. religious freedom envoy, advocates say

By William Wan and Michelle Boorstein
February 14, 2012

Chinese officials denied a visa to a top State Department envoy and refused to meet with her to discuss issues of religious freedom days before this week’s high-profile visit to Washington by China’s vice president, according to rights advocates and others.

Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, was scheduled to travel to China on Feb. 8, according to several rights advocates who were invited to brief her ahead of the visit. But as the date drew near, Chinese leaders refused to grant her meetings with government officials.

They then cited her lack of scheduled meetings as a reason for denying her visa application, according to the advocates and a congressional aide, who were briefed on the situation.

The disclosure comes one day into the diplomatically sensitive visit by Xi Jinping — China’s presumptive next president — during a week that the Obama administration hopes will help ease tense U.S.-China relations. the rest


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