- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

The U.S. government must combine high-level advocacy with grass-roots support for the rule of law to address a deteriorating human rights situation in China, the chairman of a congressional-executive commission on China said yesterday.
Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said there had been some "slippage" in China's human rights record in the two years since Congress approved permanent "normal trading relations" with Beijing, clearing China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
"I don't think the slippage was due to the [trade vote]," Mr. Baucus said at a Capitol Hill press conference to release the commission's first annual report on human rights and the rule of law in China, citing crackdowns on religious freedoms, legal and workplace abuses, and continuing repression of ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.
"I think the trade bill will lead in time to an improvement in human rights there as China becomes more engaged in the world community," he added.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created in the legislative bargaining that accompanied the China WT0 vote in September 2000. The commission included 18 lawmakers from both parties and administration figures such as State Department human rights chief Lorne Craner.
Five members of Congress refused to sign the final document, echoing complaints from private human rights groups that the commission's recommendations failed to address the real impediment to human rights in China the Communist regime itself.
"The fundamental problem in China in regard to the government's human rights abuses and restriction on human liberty is not the 'law' in China, but the 'regime' in China," said Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginian Republican and one of the dissenters.
Harry Wu, a labor rights activist who has often clashed with the Chinese government, expressed disappointment in an interview yesterday that the study did not address a number of abuses highlighted by recent human rights reports, including the government's harsh enforcement of the "one-child" policy and the practice of selling the organs of executed prisoners.
The commission's report itself contains a number of strong criticisms of China's human rights record, although it notes that the average Chinese has far more personal freedoms and economic autonomy than under Mao Tse-tung.
"Despite deepening economic reforms, China's authoritarian government has resisted calls for political liberalization and has made little progress on improving civil and political rights," the report said.
But Rep. Doug Bereuter, Nebraska Republican and co-chairman of the commission, argued yesterday that outside pressure can be most effective when it helps those within China press the government to honor commitments it has already made on civil liberties.
"U.S. and international efforts to bring Chinese practice on human rights in line with international norms will be most effective when focused on specific rule-of-law systems that allow Chinese individuals to assert their rights on their own behalf," Mr. Bereuter said.
The report's recommendations include: sustained, personal advocacy by top U.S. officials on behalf of political prisoners and human rights activists inside China; increased U.S. assistance to Chinese legal clinics and defense lawyers; and increased funding for nongovernmental organizations aiding ethnic Tibetans and Muslims in China's Xinjiang province.

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