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US Congressional Commission Criticizes China's Human Rights - 2002-10-02

A congressional panel has issued a report criticizing human-rights abuses in China and recommending ways the United States can help China improve its rule of law. The panel also calls on President Bush to press China on the issue of human rights when he meets later this month in Texas with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

The report by the Congressional-Executive Commmission on China outlines a wide range of human rights abuses. They include the repression of religious freedom, violations of workers' rights, the continued use of torture in China's criminal justice system, strict controls on the media and the Internet, and continued repression of Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities.

The commission, which includes 18 members of Congress and five administration officials, was established two years ago when Washington granted Beijing permanent normal trade relations and dropped its annual review of China's human-rights record as a condition for favorable trade terms.

Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the commission, said, "We outlined the slippage that is existing in China, that is the deterioration of human rights protections - the accumulation of abuses in China in the last year or so in lots of different areas. ... We pull no punches."

Senator Baucus says U.S. officials should raise their concerns about Chinese human-rights abuses every time they meet with Chinese officials. In addition, he says the report lists many recommendations for ways the United States can help China build a legal system that protects human rights.

The report calls for U.S. financial and technical support for Chinese legal clinics, legal education programs for farmers and migrant workers, exchanges between American and Chinese criminal defense lawyers, and programs to disseminate information about workers' rights and religious tolerance.

Senator Baucus says the panel is not seeking to impose American standards on China, but wants to see China abide by international commitments it has made and to live up to guarantees it provides in its constitution and laws.

Five of the commission's 23 members did not approve the report. Congressman Sherrod Brown says the report's authors did not go far enough. "While they did recognize many of the problems in China, they did not really recognize to the degree that I would like the U.S. role in many of those problems. And I know that next year, near the top of the agenda will be U.S. corporate involvement in those labor abuses, those worker-rights abuses, those human-rights abuses in China," he said.

The commission has sent the report to President Bush with a letter asking him to raise human-rights concerns when he meets at his Texas ranch this month with President Jiang Zemin. The panel asks Mr. Bush to specifically mention the cases of seven people imprisoned for their exercise of human rights, and urge that they be released.

Senator Baucus says China and the United States should not ignore their problems. "I very much hope the president raises this report when he meets with President Jiang, because it is very important. And the more China addresses these kinds of concerns, the more likely we will have a very solid relationship in the next several years," he said. When asked if he thinks the president may not press hard on human rights because he wants China's support at the United Nations Security Council on resolutions concerning Iraq, Senator Baucus said he hopes the administration can handle the two issues separately.