President Bush welcomed five prominent Chinese dissidents to the White House yesterday, a week before he leaves for the Olympics. The invitation was one of several moves to intensify pressure on Beijing to respect human rights. Earlier in the day, Bush urged the Chinese foreign minister, who was meeting with national security adviser Stephen Hadley, to relax restrictions on individual freedoms.
Bush met the five in his private residence, assuring them that he would "carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing," reports the New York Times. The dissidents are "very high profile people" in China, said one Asia expert, and the meeting drew praise from nonprofits such as Amnesty International that have criticized Bush's Olympic trip.