China explained today why police prevented a leading Chinese dissident from attending a farewell banquet held by President Bush, saying it resented the invitation being made without consultation.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Americans had invited scientist Fang Lizhi "without consulting the Chinese side" to attend a dinner held "especially in honor of Chinese leaders." "Therefore the Chinese side resented this," said the spokesman, quoted by the New China News Agency in Beijing's first public response to the diplomatic controversy.
Fang, an astrophysicist expelled from the Communist Party in 1987 for his outspoken criticism, was stopped and harassed by police on his way to the dinner on Sunday.
U.S. officials said Bush "expressed his regret" over the police action to Vice Premier Wu Xueqian at Beijing airport just before leaving early today at the end of his two-day visit.
Fang, who is barred from traveling abroad, said overseas support is vital to human rights activists. He criticized the West for having a "double standard"--criticizing human rights violations in the Soviet Union but not in China.
"Bush did not appear to raise the subject of human rights with Chinese leaders," the 52-year-old scientist said at home.