China blocks U.S. meeting with dissidents

July 1, 2008 at 7:43 PM

BEIJING, July 1 (UPI) -- Two U.S. congressmen who were in Beijing to lobby for the release of political prisoners were barred from meeting with human rights lawyers, officials said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Christopher Smith of New Jersey overstepped their visas in arranging to meet the lawyers, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

"They should not intervene in China's internal affairs or conduct something that is harmful to China-U.S. relations," he told reporters.

The U.S. lawmakers criticized the incident, which appears to be a part of the Chinese government's crackdown on political dissidents ahead of the Summer Olympic Games, to be held this year in Beijing.

"The people we were supposed to have dinner with all got stopped," Smith told the newspaper. "All of the world is watching, and this kind of behavior doesn't bring anything but more scrutiny to their human rights abuses."

For his part, Wolf called on U.S. President George Bush to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies if the detained lawyers were not released and if there was "no progress" on releasing 734 political prisoners on a list the two congressmen presented to the Chinese.

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