- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2001

NEW YORK The United States introduced its resolution condemning China before the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights only moments after the conclusion of the standoff on Hainan Island, setting the stage for a new confrontation between the two powers.

A State Department official said the timing was coincidental, noting that the deadline for the introduction of such resolutions passed on Wednesday at 7 a.m. Washington time. But to have filed the motion earlier could clearly have complicated the delicate negotiations for the release of the U.S. air crew in China.

Such resolutions have been introduced with U.S. support almost every year since the Tiananmen Square massacre. China has managed to rebuff censure every time through a combination of trade deals with and hardball lobbying of swing voters on the 53-member commission.

Human rights experts said yesterday that President Jiang Zemin's tour of Central and South America which took him away from the surveillance-plane crisis was connected to defeating the U.S.-sponsored resolution.

"All the countries he's going to, except for Chile, are on the [human rights] commission," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, an expert on Asian issues at Human Rights Watch. "He's signing trade and investment agreements everywhere he's going. This is the same approach China uses every year, and it always works."

Mr. Jiang left China in the middle of the Hainan crisis for a whirlwind tour of Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Cuba all of which are serving three-year terms on the Human Rights commission, an independent U.N. body.

This year's resolution, like those before it, criticizes Beijing's "severe measures" restricting its citizens' freedom of religion, assembly and speech. It also urges the authorities to "to preserve and protect the distinct cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious identity of Tibetans and others."

The document also protests the treatment of Falun Gong adherents.

The Commission's resolutions bring international attention and some condemnation, but are not binding.

In past years, Beijing has blocked any vote on its human rights record by introducing a "no-action" resolution. If the majority of commission members vote in favor of the no-action, there is no vote on the human rights text.

Observers are concerned that once again China will prevent a vote on its human rights record. This year, unlike previous years, the United States has no co-sponsors.

"If it's just the United States, China can just shrug it off, saying it's Washington out to get them," said one U.N. official.

European nations sponsored the resolution from 1990 to 1997, when the no-action motions carried by narrow margins. There was no resolution in 1998, when China released a number of political prisoners and promised to sign on to several human rights protocols.

Poland joined the United States in introducing resolutions in the past two years as the number of nations abstaining from a vote increased.

"China is saying dialogue, not confrontation," said Mr. Jendrzejczyk. "By offering to have bilateral dialogues, they've peeled off Canada, Australia, Japan, some of the European countries, and some of the Latin Americans.

"Developing countries get trade and investment, industrialized nations get these fairly sterile dialogues that … sound good domestically but don't get tangible results."

In the past, human rights advocates have criticized the United States and other Western nations for failing to work hard enough to pass a resolution.

A State Department official said yesterday that U.S. ambassadors and State Department officials have been pressing the matter, and that the European Union has been actively working against the no-action motion.

But U.S. officials said the current composition of the commission is an obstacle. Among those nations elected to serve a three-year term are several with questionable human rights records, including Liberia, Syria, Algeria, Vietnam, Burundi, Pakistan and Indonesia.

China and the United States are also on the commission. The United States has never lost a re-election bid.

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