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China Criticizes Proposed UN Resolution on Human Rights - 2004-03-23

China is blasting U.S. plans to seek a resolution criticizing Beijing's human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang said Tuesday that China will suspend exchanges on human rights with the United States. He accused Washington of intentionally damaging the foundation of dialogue between the two countries on the issue.

Chinese officials said Mr. Shen called the U.S. ambassador in Beijing Tuesday to discuss the matter. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan briefed reporters on their conversation.

"The assistant foreign minister expressed China's strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the proposed U.S. resolution on China's human rights record," he said. "He says the resolution has destroyed the basis of the human rights dialogue between the two sides."

The United States says it will seek a resolution criticizing Beijing's human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting this week. Washington officials say they are concerned about what they term China's backsliding on earlier promises to improve its human rights record.

Chinese officials accuse the United States of failing to recognize its recent steps on human rights protections. Officials say these include the decision at this year's National People's Congress to include the first mention of the term "human rights" in the country's Constitution.

However, organizations such as the Human Rights in China group say they doubt Beijing's resolve to improve its rights record. Nicolas Bequelin at the group's Hong Kong office says the government's definition of food and shelter as human rights is a narrow one. He says compliance with the terms of international rights accords has been uneven.

"When it is favorable to the government of China to appear to be engaging with the human rights mechanism, they are doing it," said Mr. Bequelin. "At other times, when it is convenient and whenever they want to avoid public criticism of their human rights record, they retract to this narrow definition."

U.S. officials say China's communist government has continued to arrest democracy advocates, Internet dissidents, members of unofficial churches, and those suspected of following the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.

The United States also has criticized Beijing for using the war on terror to justify a crackdown on suspected separatists among the country's Muslim Uighur minority.