"I do not support an Olympic boycott," Miliband said on his Internet blog monitored by BosNewsLife. "I do support engagement with China on the need to work together internationally to nurture the potential gains of globalization. China depends on that cooperation, so do we," he said.

His remarks were the strongest indication yet that Britain would not support calls for more pressure on China, including a boycott of the Olympic Games, to improve human rights in the Communist-run nation.

Some politicians and activists have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in August to protest at China’s human rights record, including a reported crackdown on devoted Christians and other religious groups, or its stance on Darfur and Burma, also known as Myanmar.


Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg withdrew last week as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Games over China’s policy on Darfur, where a five-year conflict has killed an estimated 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes.

Miliband’s statement came shortly after UK-based Christian rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that there were "serious reports of breaches of religious freedom emerging in the run up to the Olympic Games."

It said that earlier this week, the president of the Inner Mongolia branch of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Wang Dawei, and 40 co-workers were detained on February 20, when some "100 police officers from the State Security Bureau raided a Bible study" group.

Advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) said police also confiscated money from the offertory and "30 boxes of Christian literature," including Bibles. A South Korean church representative was reportedly also detained during the incident, however his whereabouts remained unknown Sunday, February 24.


CSW also confirmed earlier reports that 21 house church leaders were sentenced to between fifteen months and three years re-education through labor, described as "the largest mass sentencing of Christians for 25 years." 

Several rights groups have said that the reported crackdown seems part of a deliberate strategy to dismantle the House Church Alliance, an umbrella group of the growing house church movement, before the Beijing Olympics.

Communist officials have reportedly expressed concerns that devoted Chinese Christians will use the Olympics to receive world attention for the plight of house churches in China, where believers are only allowed to worship in the government-backed denominations.

"During this visit, the Foreign Secretary has a prime opportunity to raise concerns over human rights abuses and religious freedom violations taking place in China," said CSW Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas. "At the end of last year [Chinese] President Hu Jintao stated that China has a policy of religious freedom, yet the reality for many believers on the ground remains in stark contrast to such claims."


He added that, "While oppressed Christians are unable to represent themselves directly, the United Kingdom should demonstrate its commitment to human rights by raising these concerns and seeking concrete assurances about how China ’s practice will be brought into line with its rhetoric."

He said that while CSW realized China’s "prominent role in international affairs it is right for the authorities to be urged to adhere to international rules and standards." Thomas stressed that the CSW had urged Mr Miliband "not to squander this opportunity to raise freedom of religion when he travels to China this weekend, and to work to improve the lives of the many Christians harassed or imprisoned as a result of their faith."
In his blog, Miliband said he only that he would "take some time to try to get a sense of the economic and social forces at work within China." He promised to "discuss political forces" as "President Hu mentioned democracy 62 times in his Party Congress speech."

From a British perspective, Miliband said, "democratic accountability and individual rights are a bulwark for stability in a political system…So I will want to discuss with Chinese hosts how they see political development and the place of individual political and civil rights within their system."


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