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8/26/03 - CHINA IS BACKSLIDING ON RIGHTS - 2003-08-27


The Chinese government is not living up to its human rights commitments. In discussions with the U.S. last December, Chinese officials promised to move toward more respect for fundamental freedoms. To back up its promises, the Chinese government said it would invite monitoring groups from the United Nations to visit the country to look at such things as conditions in prisons and the ability of Chinese citizens to practice the religion of their choice. But, said U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, China has been “backsliding”:

“Things like visits of [United Nations} special rapporteurs on torture and religious tolerance, [the] Working Group on Arbitrary Detention -- those visits have not yet taken place. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was compelled to postpone their August trip because the Chinese insisted they not visit Hong Kong.”

Mr. Boucher said there have also been “a number of troubling incidents” within China:

“The execution of a Tibetan without due process, arrests of a number of democracy activists, the harsh sentences laid down for Internet essayists and labor protesters, and a number of other things that constitute backsliding.”

The U.S. is especially concerned about the many people who have been jailed in China for advocating political reform or otherwise seeking to exercise basic rights. At the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue last December, U.S. officials asked China to provide information on more than two-hundred political prisoners. But so far, China has provided information on only around half of them.

Lorne Craner is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. As he put it, “the Chinese have not done well, and it’s disappointing.” The U.S. will keep pushing the Chinese government to provide more freedom to the people. After all, as President George W. Bush said, “Americans believe that freedom is the deepest need and hope of any human heart.”

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