WASHINGTON (BP)–An announcement by the United States that it will sponsor a resolution at a United Nations conference censuring China for human rights violations has prompted the communist power to react by cutting off discussions between the two governments on the subject.
Members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom applauded the Bush administration’s decision to seek passage of such a resolution criticizing China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, now holding its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The State Department revealed its decision to offer the resolution after deciding last year not to sponsor a censure of China at the conference.
“The United States has been disappointed by China’s failure to meet its commitments made at the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in December 2002, as well as the failure to follow through on its stated intention to expand cooperation on human rights in 2003,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said March 22. “We’re concerned about backsliding on key human rights issues. That has occurred in a variety of areas since that time.
“Our goal in sponsoring this resolution is to encourage China to take positive, concrete steps to meet its international obligations to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Chinese people,” Boucher said.
Beijing, however, declared the announcement a basis for halting dialogue on human rights.
“The United States’ insistence on provoking confrontation has seriously damaged the foundation of our two countries’ human rights dialogue and exchange,” Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Guofang told U.S. Ambassador Clark Randt March 23, according to The Washington Post. “The United States should bear all the consequences that might arise from this.”
In addition to repressing political dissidents and killing and torturing prisoners, China is a leading persecutor of religious adherents, including evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong sect. It also has a population control program that has resulted in coercive abortions and sterilizations in some provinces.
On March 3, the House of Representatives voted 402-2 for a resolution urging the United States to promote a measure at the U.N. meeting calling for China to meet the international community’s standards on human rights.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., who sponsored the House resolution, commended the administration for “confronting the ugly truth of the [People’s Republic of China’s] reprehensible record.”
“Despite the hopes that robust trade with China would usher [in] a modicum of respect for basic human rights and fundamental liberties, the simple fact of the matter is that the dictatorship in China oppresses, tortures and mistreats tens of millions of its own citizens,” Smith said in a written statement.
Michael Young, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, also praised the decision to sponsor a resolution.
“The Chinese government must encourage and protect the human rights affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights if it seeks a credible voice in world affairs,” Young said in a written release. “China has chosen to see the resolution as a ‘confrontation’ and not as a chance to demonstrate its sincerity about implementing its human rights obligations.”
Beijing’s broken promises and its continued repression of religious groups in the last year is “gravely disappointing,” Young said, especially since the National People’s Congress “recently added the clause ‘to respect and guarantee human rights’ to the Chinese constitution.”
China is one of the world’s most severe violators of religious freedom. It is among six countries designated by the Department of State as “countries of particular concern.” Chinese policy requires churches to register with the government.
The USCIRF makes reports and policy recommendations to Congress and the White House. The president and congressional leaders appoint the nine members who serve as commissioners.
President Bush appointed Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to the panel in 2001. Land’s second term will expire in May.