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Originally published Friday, August 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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China chastises Bush for dissident meeting

China on Thursday issued a strong rebuke of President Bush for meeting with five Chinese dissidents in the White House this week, saying...

2008 Olympics Video Coverage at NBC Olympics.com!

BEIJING — China on Thursday issued a strong rebuke of President Bush for meeting with five Chinese dissidents in the White House this week, saying he had "rudely interfered" with China's internal affairs and sent a "seriously wrong" message to others who criticize the country.

The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao were unusually pointed against Bush, who China considers a friend. Bush supported the Chinese by resisting activists' calls to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony to protest China's human rights record. He also sat for a one-on-one interview with China's state-controlled television without requiring preconditions that would limit editing of his remarks.

"I respect the Chinese people," Bush said in the interview. "I'm coming to China as the president and as a friend."

Bush met Tuesday in the White House residence with five prominent Chinese dissidents: Harry Wu, a critic of Chinese prisons; Wei Jinsheng, a democracy activist; Sasha Gong, a writer; Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association, and Rebiya Kadeer, who advocates for more protection of rights for the Uighurs, an ethnic minority in western China's Xinjiang region.

Tuesday's meeting with dissidents, in which the White House said Bush promised to "carry the message of freedom" to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, prompted Liu to say the U.S. had "rudely interfered in China's internal affairs."

Liu also criticized the House of Representatives, which on Wednesday, by a 419-1 vote, adopted a resolution calling on China to stop abusing citizens' rights, to open meaningful negotiations with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet and to end its support of governments in Sudan and Burma

While in Beijing, Bush is expected to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other officials as well as attend several days of Olympic competition.

Stronger pollution

controls unveiled

China's environmental regulators on Thursday unveiled stricter emergency pollution controls for the Olympic Games that would shutter more factories and expand traffic restrictions if air quality fails to meet approved standards once the competition begins on Aug. 8.

The measures, posted on the Web site of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, would be invoked during the games only in the case of "extremely unfavorable weather conditions" — for example, hot, humid air without winds to disperse pollution.

The plan would broaden existing temporary restrictions in Beijing and also include the nearby municipality of Tianjin as well as surrounding Hebei province. In all, the new measures would encompass a region of more than 91 million people.

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Pollution has been a persistent concern for the games, even as Chinese officials have promised to deliver clean air by imposing restrictions on cars and factories. Those measures began on July 1, when more than 300,000 high-polluting vehicles were barred from the roads in Beijing.

Then on July 20, the city instituted alternate-day driving restrictions in which motorists were limited to driving on either odd or even days.

The traffic restrictions have removed roughly 2 million vehicles from city streets. In addition, many factories in Beijing and outlying areas reduced production while most major construction sites were closed.

But the expected radiant, blue skies have yet to appear. For four consecutive days, Beijing's gray, stifling skies failed to meet China's national air-quality standards, which are more lenient than those in the United States. The situation has improved in recent days as colder air and rainfall has washed out some of the pollution, even as the skies remain mostly milky or gray.

Press aide chagrined

by Internet curbs

An Olympic official said Thursday he felt like the "fall guy" after promising reporters at the games they would have uncensored Internet access, only to find that the Chinese had blocked certain Web sites.

Kevan Gosper, the press-commission head of the International Olympic Committee, also said he suspects the IOC leadership probably knew about the change.

Gosper said he was startled to find out earlier this week that Web sites for Amnesty International or others dealing with Tibet, the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square or the spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked to reporters at the Olympics Main Press Center in Beijing.

China's communist government routinely filters its citizens' access to the Internet. But for months Gosper, IOC President Jacques Rogge and others have publicly said Chinaagreed to unblock the Web during the games, and they touted the shift as a sign of the Olympics' liberalizing effect on China.

"I suspect an agreement has been reached, or an understanding has been reached," Gosper said. "It may have taken into consideration new circumstances in this year leading up to the games where there has been quite a lot of trauma around China, and within China."

Gosper was referring to deadly riots in March in Tibet, followed by chaotic protests on international stages of the Olympic torch relay. On May 12, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck southwestern China, killing just under 70,000 people.

"This certainly isn't what we guaranteed the international media and it's certainly contrary to normal circumstances of reporting on Olympic Games," added Gosper, a long-serving IOC member from Australia.

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