U.S. won't push for China human rights censure
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March 14, 1998
Web posted at: 5:52 p.m. EST (2252 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will not push for a resolution condemning China's human rights record at an upcoming meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the White House confirmed Saturday.
Human rights advocates were quick to criticize the U.S. position.
The Clinton administration is backing off from such a resolution because of what it views as improvements in China's human rights record, including recent releases of political prisoners and a decision this past week by China to sign a U.N. treaty committing the communist country to basic freedoms.
"We have taken note of a number of positive developments in the human rights situation in China," said White House spokesman Eric Rubin.
"While we by no means consider this to be sufficient -- nor do we consider the human rights situation in China to be satisfactory -- we have determined there are other, more promising ways to pursue improving the human rights situation," Rubin said
The European Union has also decided not to press for censure of China at the U.N. meeting in Geneva.
Decision comes after summit announcement
The decision comes just days after the White House confirmed that President Clinton is likely to make a trip to China this summer, the first visit there by a U.S. leader since a bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing. Clinton had planned to visit China in November but moved the trip up to June.
And on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said China was preparing to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The covenant enshrines liberties that human rights experts say China is still restricting, including freedom of expression and religion, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of movement and equality before the law.
The Clinton administration has also certified that the Chinese are making appropriate efforts to prevent transfer of nuclear technology to other countries. That will open opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to sell nuclear reactor equipment to China under contracts that could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
'They yield to China on promises, not performance'
The U.S. branch of Amnesty International criticized the administration's position not to push for a resolution condemning China's human rights record.
"The United States is exaggerating the few positive developments in China during 1997 and using them as an excuse to avoid censure of China," according to a statement issued by the human rights group.
"China must be held accountable for its record of gross violations. The [United States] must be objective in its insistence on concrete improvements that can be universally accepted as real progress."
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who advocates strong human rights pressure on China, said the administration's decision to back off in Geneva and ease nuclear technology sales show its policy on China is driven by money.
"Whether it's human rights or whether it is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, they yield to China on promises, not performance," Pelosi said.
Reuters contributed to this report.