- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2000

The United States said yesterday it believes the U.N. Human Rights Commission, meeting this week in Geneva, will for the first time since 1995 be able to force a vote on a resolution criticizing China's human rights record.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will fly to Geneva Thursday to lobby member states in the Human Rights Commission to condemn China and to work for a resolution criticizing Cuba, an official said yesterday.

The secretary is currently traveling with President Clinton in South Asia and will return to South Asia after the Geneva meeting.

Harold Koh, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said yesterday that Mrs. Albright believes there are enough votes this year to pass a resolution over Chinese objections.

"As in the past, we would expect China to introduce a no-action motion, to try to prevent discussion of the resolution," said Mr. Koh.

"We believe that now there's a very significant possibility that that no-action motion can be defeated, and therefore there will be, in our expectation and hope, a vote on the merits of China's human rights conduct since late April."

In Beijing yesterday, state-run newspapers said the resolution criticizing China's human rights record would fail. The newspapers accused the United States of interfering in China's internal affairs and ignoring its own human rights abuses.

Asked whether condemnations in Geneva had in the past had any practical effect, Mr. Koh said they might lead to "suggestions that matters be taken before various U.N. human rights bodies or mechanisms and kept under observation."

"And there is both the effect of spotlighting abuses … and a sense that there will be greater U.N. examination of their human rights conduct," he added.

Since 1995, when the 53-member commission condemned China's human rights policies, China has successfully introduced motions of "no action," said Mr. Koh, briefing reporters at the State Department.

The 56th session of the commission, which began yesterday and runs through April 28, will mark the first appearance in many years by a U.S. secretary of state, said Mr. Koh.

The State Department reprimanded China in its annual world report on human rights on Feb. 25.

"There are at least five areas in which we noted a marked deterioration," said Mr. Koh.

"First, the continued repression of political dissent; second, restrictions on freedom of religion with regard to Protestants, Catholics, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, as well as members of the Falun Gong; third, restrictions on forced and prison labor; fourth, restrictions on Internet access and other modes of freedom of expression; and fifth, a decline in the situation of the rights of women; and then, finally, concerns about the continuing situation in Tibet and an enhanced patriotic-education campaign against Buddhist nuns and monks.

The United States has already drafted a resolution critical of China that is being circulated among commission members, said Mr. Koh.

On Cuba, Mr. Koh said that Poland and the Czech Republic are to introduce a resolution condemning its imprisonment of dissidents.

Last year, the two new NATO members introduced a similar resolution, which passed. However it only prompted Cuba to crack down even more severely on dissent, said Mr. Koh.

"There's also new restrictive legislation and also restrictions and harassment of journalists, restraints on the Internet and other kinds of communication," he said.

A resolution condemning Iraq may be introduced by European nations with U.S. support. But resolutions condemning North Korea are unlikely to be introduced because of the problems of knowing what is happening in that country.

"I think we have a pretty good sense of it, but whether there will be a resolution this year, I don't know," Mr. Koh said.

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