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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended February 09, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08Feb01

By Kent Larsen

Beijing Sees Pro-Mormon Push Behind Bush Appointments of Huntsman, Gong

WASHINGTON, DC -- The expected appointments of two LDS Church members to posts in the Bush administration that deal with China has upset Chinese officials. The Chinese object to the appointments of LDS Church members Jon M. Huntsman Jr. as US Ambassador to China and Gerrit W. Gong as the National Security Council staff's China specialist, claiming that their appointments indicate that China is less of a priority for the administration. They also see behind the appointments an attempt to promote religious freedom in China and push the country to accept Mormon missionaries.

Huntsman, who is vice chairman of Huntsman Corp., and the son of LDS billionaire Jon M. Huntsman, was a former Commerce Department assistant secretary and US Ambassador to Singapore in the George Bush administration. He was also George W. Bush's campaign chairman for Utah, and his family were large donors for the Republicans. Since ambassadorial positions in smaller, less strategic nations are often political appointments awarded to a president's supporters, Chinese officials apparently see the appointment of Huntsman as a reward for political support.

Chinese officials were more pointed in their criticisms of Gong, according to a recent article in the Washington DC Times. Gong, an expert on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (a non-partisan think tank in Washington DC that analyzes the impact of government policies), is considered weak by the Chinese, lacking the stature of previous appointees to the NSC staff.

But beyond the qualifications of Huntsman and Gong, the Chinese see in their appointments an attempt by the Bush administration to push religious freedom and open China to LDS missionaries. "This is an aggressive maneuver to push Mormon missionaries into China," one Chinese official reportedly told the Washington Times' sources.

China is in the middle of a crackdown on the Falun Gong religious sect that has even led to the bulldozing of buildings belonging to unofficial Christian sects in southern China. Since the LDS Church has no buildings, and few members in China, outside of Hong Kong, no LDS Church members or property were involved in the recent crackdowns. The crackdown on the Falun Gong has been an almost daily news story in the US, leading to calls from civil libertarians and activists for the administration to act to promote religious freedom in China.

The Times' report says that Bush administration officials tried to explain that the religion of the two men was a coincidence, and not part of a policy to push China toward religious freedom or to admitting LDS missionaries.


Inside the Ring: China pique
Washington DC Times 2Jan01 T2
By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
[Submitted by: Justin Hart ]


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