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Sunday, June 28, 1998 Published at 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK

Clinton praises China's 'religious tolerance'

Sunday was a family day of sightseeing for the Clintons

President Clinton, continuing his visit to China, has praised what he called the increase in tolerance for religious believers there.

He told the congregation at a Christian church in Beijing that, as the children of God, the Chinese and American people were brothers and sisters.

Mr Clinton did not mention the issue of freedom of religion during the service, but he and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, agreed on Saturday to encourage religious understanding in both countries.

Bill Clinton: "Brothers in faith"
The BBC Washington correspondent, who is travelling with Mr Clinton, says the relationship between the two leaders appears increasingly warm.

"We are a long way from home but we felt very much at home with you in this church," the president told some 2,000 people packed into the turn-of the-century church near Tiananmen Square.

[ image: A woman tried to get too close to the president]
A woman tried to get too close to the president
"We celebrate with you the growth of the practice of our faith in China and we rejoice to hear ... the [growing] number of churches and other places of worship where people are practising their faith today."

There was a commotion in the church when security guards stopped an elderly woman who was walking towards Mr Clinton down an aisle.

Mr Clinton chatted to her after the service. "She just kept saying how happy she was that I was in the church," he said later.

Many in the congregation said they thought Mr Clinton's visit would provide a boost for China's Christians, who are only allowed to worship in officially-approved churches.

Day of sightseeing

The US leader, accompanied by the first lady, Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, later visited well-known tourist locations in and near Beijing.

[ image: President and daughter Chelsea in the Forbidden City]
President and daughter Chelsea in the Forbidden City
They toured the Forbidden City, a maze of palaces and courtyards behind vermillion walls that was home to the ancient emperors.

Then they rode a cable car up to the Great Wall of China, which the president said was now a symbol which China used to welcome visitors, rather then to keep them out.

The BBC correspondent says the trips are designed in part to demonstrate to the American public just how ancient Chinese culture is, and the importance of treating the country as an equal partner.

Feeling good about China's changes

Mr Clinton said he now felt quite good about changes in Chinese society, following Saturday's news conference with China's leader, Jiang Zemin.

[ image: Saturday's Clinton-Jiang debate was the main news in the country]
Saturday's Clinton-Jiang debate was the main news in the country
Many Beijing residents, who had watched the conference shown live on Chinese television, said they were pleased to hear Mr Clinton's comments on human rights, including his criticism of the use of force against demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Others, however, said he had criticised China too much. The official Chinese language media on Sunday did not refer to his comments on the issue.

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