WASHINGTON (BP)–Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, has joined with other Christian, pro-family and academic leaders in challenging the Clinton administration to put “human rights before profits” in its policy toward China.
Land was among 26 signers of an open letter to Vice President Al Gore that appeared as a full-page advertisement in the Easter Sunday issue of The Washington Times. The letter, following immediately on the heels of Gore’s four-day visit to China, cited the communist power’s ongoing persecution of Christians and other religious adherents and called for the administration “to stand with the victims of oppression.”
The vice president’s trip, and the resultant letter, came as Congress prepares to consider the extension of most favored nation trading status to China. A vote may occur this spring or early summer.
In addition to the CLC’s Land, other signers of the public letter to Gore included Focus on the Family President James Dobson, Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed, Family Research Council President Gary Bauer, Prison Fellowship President Chuck Colson and former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey.
The vice president “apparently did and said little” on his trip on behalf of the victims of the Chinese government’s repression of religious groups outside its system of state-approved churches, the letter said. Meanwhile, American business interests praised the trip and China’s leaders exploited it for favorable publicity, it said.
The March 30 open letter asked the vice president the following questions:
— “Has the Clinton-Gore administration directed our U.S. Embassy in Beijing to put human rights issues at the top of our concerns in relations between our two countries?
— “Did you seriously, and specifically, raise these issues of religious persecution at any time during your meetings with Premier Li Peng or other hosts for your trip? If so, what was their response? What, if any, commitments did your receive?
— “In view of your role as the administration’s ‘point man’ on China issues, have you taken any other steps to fulfill the pledge made in the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign to hold China to account for its abysmal human rights record?
— “During your visit in China, did you meet with any Chinese dissidents?
— “Ambassador James Sasser said, in January 1996, that he was unaware of the evangelical house church movement in its persecution in China. Has he now been thoroughly briefed on this movement and is he prepared to assert the strong protest of the United States in the event that those involved in this movement continue to be harassed and punished?
— “Will the Clinton-Gore administration publish interim reports regarding China’s progress on human rights in advance of the upcoming exchange of visits between President Jiang Zemin and President Clinton?”
Baptist Press requested a response from the vice president’s office but received none before the deadline.
The CLC’s Land said, “For America to sell out its principles for the profits of trade with China is a shameful denial of all that is best about our great nation. For our government to acquiesce to and to appease the tyrants of Beijing diminishes us all.
“America has always stood for certain basic principles, and high among them has been the worth, dignity and value of every human being and that every person by virtue of being a person has certain unalienable rights. Thus, government cannot confer these rights but can only acknowledge and protect what is yours by virtue of being a human being. Americans have always believed that this applies not just to Americans but to all human beings.”
Recently, FRC’s Bauer has attempted to lead an effort to convince Congress to reject MFN status for China. Opponents of MFN status for China have cited not only the government’s harassment of religious adherents and dissidents but its coercive one-child abortion policy, which sometimes results in infanticide.
On the same day the letter appeared, Reed said in a television interview he believes the Christian Coalition will call for Congress to oppose MFN status for China, according to The Washington Times.
Meanwhile, Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Clinton administration wants the U.N. Human Rights Commission, meeting in Geneva, to pass a resolution criticizing China’s human rights violations, The Times reported April 2. France has indicated it will not support such a resolution, according to The Times.
While Gore returned from his trip with no apparent commitments from the Chinese on human rights, China did agree to contracts with General Motors and Boeing during the week, The Times reported.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, R.-Ga., traveled to China the same week.
He spoke “much more bluntly than have administration officials about China’s human rights abuses but remained generally supportive of the policy of engagement” pursued by the administration, The Washington Post reported March 31.
On Easter, Gingrich, his wife and members of a bipartisan congressional delegation attended a worship service at Shanghai Community Church, a congregation sanctioned by the Chinese government, The Times reported March 31. Gingrich had considered meeting with members of the underground church movement but decided not to when the U.S. Embassy advised the speaker attending such a church would increase the risk of government repression of members, according to The Times. A Gingrich spokesman said the speaker consulted with Hong Kong and American church leaders to be sure attending a state-approved church would not be perceived as support for government oppression, The Times reported.
Among other signers of the open letter to the vice president were D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries; Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America; Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum; Nina Shea, president of the Puebla Institute and a member of the Department of State’s committee on overseas religion freedom; Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; Richard John Neuhaus, president of the Institute for Religion and Public Life; Keith Fournier, president of Catholic Alliance; and Chris Gersten, director of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values.