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US Accuses China of Backsliding on Human Rights - 2004-03-26

A Senior U.S. Humanitarian official accuses China of backsliding on human rights and says the United States will introduce a resolution critical of China's record at this session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson says bilateral discussions with China have not worked. After some improvements in its human rights situation, he told a news conference, China has regressed over the past year. And, he says it is time to call China to account for the abusive treatment of its people. He says a U.N. Human Rights Commission censure of China will have an effect.

"Does it have an impact? That is always something that in human rights that you are trying to weigh," he said. "What we do know is being passive does not help. Obviously our judgment was that the bilateral discussions were not advancing. In fact, they were backsliding. There had been more repression of its people using the Internet, democratic dialogue, religious expression. And, therefore, we felt morally compelled to take a step forward. We hope this will help and we expect this will help advance human rights in China."

The United States has sponsored China resolutions at the commission almost every year since the authorities cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Besides China, Mr. Williamson says the United States will support a resolution condemning Cuba for its human rights record. He says the European Union is drafting a resolution on continuing abuses in the Russian Republic of Chechnya. And, the United States will support that resolution if it finds the language appropriate. Furthermore, he says the U.S. delegation will sponsor resolutions on Byelorussia and Turkmenistan.

Turning to Africa, he says the United States is very troubled by the many atrocities occurring in war-torn regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sudan and the continuing abuse in Ivory Coast. He says Washington is particularly troubled by President Robert Mugabe's conduct in Zimbabwe.

"Clearly, Robert Mugabe systematically has perverted the political process, has abused civil rights, has put political opposition and journalists in jail, illegally appropriated land and has created a pattern of abuse and oppression in Zimbabwe, which cannot be ignored," said Richard Williamson.

Despite Zimbabwe's poor human rights record, Mr. Williamson notes it would be very hard to say which of the several tragic events occurring in Africa is the most acute.