Just a few days before a high profile visit from Vice President Xi Jinping, China's government refused to allow the U.S. State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom into the country, reports The Washington Post. Apparently the Chinese government refused to grant Suzan Johnson Cook (pictured right) meetings in the weeks leading up to her trip and then refused to grant her a visa because ... she didn't have enough meetings. No surprise that the Chinese wouldn't be excited to welcome Jones, who had met with representatives of Tibetans, Uighers, and members of Falun Gong in preparation for the trip, each of whom have less than sunny relationships with the Chinese government.
Here in the U.S., the issue seems to be that the government has kept the rejection fairly quiet as they prepared for Xi's state visit, causing several sources quoted by The Post's William Wan and Michelle Boorstein wondered whether the U.S. is taking this too lightly. In a statement, Danny Russel, Asia director on the National Security Council, spoke to the issue of religious freedom:
We routinely, regularly, invariably raise our concerns about the human rights situation in China. ... Part of our goal with respect to this visit is for Vice President Xi to understand the issues that are important to us, and that includes issues like the situation in Tibet, like freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
It's not yet know if U.S. officials broached the subject of Cook's rejected visa with Xi, or whether she'll be allowed into China in the future.