A senior U.S. official has reaffirmed the Bush administration's intention to support a resolution criticizing human rights violations in China at this year's U.N. Human Rights Commission conference. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Lorne Craner, appeared Wednesday at a congressional hearing where lawmakers expressed concerns about rights violations in a number of countries.
The administration had previously made known its intention to support a resolution, but the comments by Mr. Craner before the House International Relations Committee reinforced what he described as U.S. disappointment in the human rights dialogue with Beijing.
”We're heading in that direction because the fruits of our own dialogue with the Chinese have not been very plentiful this past year, in fact not at all plentiful,” he said.
Each year, in addition to administration witnesses, the committee hears testimony from human rights groups and individuals in its role of reviewing the State Department's annual report on human rights observance around the world.
China, Belarus and Zimbabwe were highlighted in Wednesday's hearing.
“Children and youth are subjected to the same torture as adults,” said Ngawang Sangdrol, a former political prisoner from Tibet. “They are suspended in the air with their hands tied behind their back. Torture equipment used in the prisons includes water hoses, leather belts with heavy leather buckles, bamboo canes and electric rods of various sizes which they shove in the prisoner's mouth or prod their body with.”
Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and key critic of Beijing had this response.
“We continue to see a deterioration on a multitude of fronts, and that is probably with a great deal of emphasis and exclamation points with regards to the Tibetans, the monks as well as the nuns,” he said.
“At present my country is ruled by the last dictator of Europe,” said Irina Krasovkaya, a human rights activist from Belarus. “The [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko regime violates the most basic human right - the right to live.”
Zimbabwe and human rights violations there has become a focus of congressional criticism. Gabriel Shumba, a human rights activist, described his torture at the hands of Zimbabwean authorities.
“They hung me upside down on the wall, the wall was lined with planks. So I was hung upside down and beaten on the soles of the feet with rubber and wooden truncheons,” he said. “I was also kicked, for nine hours this persisted. I was then taken down and I was placed in that position and a contraption which was black in color, resembling a telephone, was then brought over to a small table it had copper wires dangling from it. The wires, one was put in my mouth and the other was wrapped around my genitals tightly.”
Mr. Shumba said the United States needs to strongly engage other governments, specifically South Africa, to help increase pressure on the Zimbabwe government.
Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch, urges the Bush administration to take stronger action on a range of human rights issues, including China, and former Soviet republics.
Noting a scheduled upcoming visit to Washington by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he says President Bush should not hesitate to press allies in the war on terrorism for reforms.
“The real test of this policy is going to be whether the administration is willing to press these human rights and democracy issues with the most important, most populous country in the Arab world, Egypt, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and is an important partner of the United States in a range of areas,” he said.
Wednesday's hearing also heard discussion of human rights issues in Laos and Burma as well as Pakistan among other countries.