Accessibility links

Congress Urges President Bush To Raise Human Rights Issue With China

U.S. lawmakers, organizations advocating for human rights and religious freedom, and China democracy activists have sharply criticized the Chinese government in advance of the Beijing Olympic Games opening in August 8. VOA's Dan Robinson reports on this, and a congressional resolution urging President Bush to raise human rights issues when he attends the Olympic games.

Felice Gaer, who heads the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and other commission members detailed a range of violations of human rights and religious freedom by the Chinese government.

A commission statement points to repressive measures Beijing is using to maintain social harmony during the Olympics, and says authorities may step up repression when the games end.

Gaer says President Bush needs to speak strongly during his visit to Beijing about human rights.

"The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked President Bush to speak publicly during his trip, during his trip, about the pressing need for China to guarantee universal human rights and freedom of thought, conscience religion and belief and to uphold the rule of law in China," said Felice Gaer.

Members of Congress have expressed concern about restrictions on the Internet and travel imposed by the Chinese government on journalists wishing to report on and from other areas of the country.

Commission member Nina Shea expresses hope that Olympic coverage by the U.S. NBC television network will attempt to provide a broader view of conditions in China during the games:

"I would urge NBC to use a wide angle lens, not a zoom lens, on these Olympics," said Nina Shea. "It may be the one television outlet that really could get a broader picture of the context of the Olympics."

Among China democracy activists appearing at the news conference was Harry Wu:

"Do you know [that] China today has an Internet police department," said Harry Wu. "They have about 200,000 to 300,000 policemen [whose] only job [is] Internet. Every individual or Internet café [is] controlled."

Wu, and former dissident Yiang Janli were among a group of five who meet with President Bush this week, a meeting welcomed by human rights groups.

"The issues of human rights and religious freedom in China are not Olympic issues, nor Tibetan issues, nor Christian issues, nor Uighur issues, nor Falun Gong issues, nor are they strictly internal issues as the Chinese government would have you believe," said Yiang Janli. "These issues transcend the Olympic games and territorial borders. These issues are connected to the fundamental matter of freedom and democratization which are inseparable from the strategic interests of the United States."

Also meeting President Bush at the White House was prominent activist Wei Jingsheng:

"Yesterday we were in the White House and I told President Bush that he had made a huge mistake to go to [the] Olympics in Beijing this time," said Wei Jingsheng. "This is not a mistake just made recently, it was made several months ago."

Todd Stein, of the International Campaign for Tibet, says those covering the Olympics should keep in mind that the Chinese government has restricted access to much of the country, including Tibet.

"As the president heads off to celebrate the opening ceremonies, one fourth of the territory of the PRC remains locked off to the international community," said Todd Stein. "Tibet has been closed off since March, and inside, the cultural revolution is alive and well."

In a nearly unanimous 419 to 1 vote, the House of Representatives (Wednesday) approved a resolution urging President Bush to make human rights a priority during his Beijing visit.

It also calls on the Chinese government to immediately end abuses of the human rights, including repression of Tibetan and Uighur people, and to end support its military and economic support for the Governments of Sudan and Burma.