With a week to go to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the host nation, China, stands in the centre of a global diplomatic storm, sparked by its insistence of strict internet censorship but broadening yesterday to include human rights abuses.
The office of the US President said George Bush would use his visit to the opening ceremony - which will be attended by scores of other heads of state, including the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd - to press for religious and human freedoms.
This came as the US House of Representatives voted 419-1 to demand China "immediately end abuses of the human rights of its citizens, to cease repression of Tibetan and Uighur citizens, and to end its support for the governments of Sudan and Burma (Myanmar)."
The Chinese Government responded by calling the US remarks rude and irresponsible.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said: "The US side has rudely interfered in China's internal affairs and sent a seriously wrong message to hostile anti-China forces."
Chinese authorities have hit out at other international critics opposing its censorship of the internet, saying they will not allow any outside influences to harm its national interest.
The issue has reverberated around the world, with international media organisations and human rights organisations attacking China and the International Olympic Committee for striking an unacceptable deal that allows China to back down on a promise to open up to the world during the Games.
Yesterday, more than 150 websites were blocked in China, including those of BBC China, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
A Beijing Olympics spokesman, Sun Weide, said many websites were difficult to browse because "they have spread content that is banned by the Chinese laws".
He said: "The internet is regulated according to law in China, just like in other countries." It was forbidden to use the internet to spread illegal information, such as news about the spiritual practice Falun Gong, or do anything to harm the national interest.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, who had said "there will be no censorship of the internet" two weeks ago, arrived in Beijing yesterday and immediately had meetings with senior organisers.
Dr Rogge's office said although there had been discussions about blocking sites that were pornographic or sensitive in terms of national security, no deal was done with Chinese authorities.
"It would be incorrect to say we knew in advance that China was to restrict certain sites, and we are pushing for those restrictions to be blocked," said a spokeswoman for the IOC , Giselle Davies.
"They were talking about restrictions that are similar to those that exist in other countries."
The chief of the IOC's press commission, Kevan Gosper, said: "It's clear that I have been providing, on behalf of the IOC, incomplete information."
The Federal Government welcomed the IOC apology but stopped short of any direct action.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, said the Government regularly urged China to embrace openness.
"So far as communications into and out of China are concerned, the Australian Government has made the point to China on a regular basis that we believe China should be open and transparent," he said.
Broadcasters, such as Channel Seven, NBC and the BBC, which have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in rights fees to the IOC, were reluctant to comment.
But the International Federation of Journalists' general secretary, Aidan White, called for the website restrictions to be lifted.
Broadcasting around the city has also been tightly restricted. Beijing officials have limited broadcasting from Tiananmen Square to between 6am and 10am, and 9pm and 11pm, for stand-up pieces only, causing friction with British broadcasters, which have missed out broadcasting in their prime time. All interviews are banned in the square at all times.
"We learn with dismay from the Chinese Government that some internet sites are blocked", Mr White said. "This is a serious breach of the promise given: that all journalists, particularly those in the main press centre for the Games, would have unfettered access to the internet."
A researcher for Amnesty International, Mark Allison, said: "This blatant media censorship adds one more broken promise that undermines the claim that the Games would help improve human rights in China."