- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

NEW YORK — China yesterday succeeded in blocking a U.S.-sponsored censure in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, playing up the surveillance plane episode to its own advantage.
As in past years, Beijing derailed efforts in the Geneva-based commission to condemn its human rights record 10 times since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre by using a procedural maneuver.
This year, 23 of the 53 nations on the commission voted in favor of a pre-emptive "no action" motion introduced by China. Seventeen nations opposed the motion and the remaining 12 nations abstained. Congo did not register a vote.
The Bush administration faced several difficulties in this years effort.
Many of the administrations top human rights and foreign affairs posts remain vacant three months after the new president was inaugurated.
Moreover, the composition of the commission this year, which was selected in a vote by all U.N. member states, is unusually heavy with human rights offenders. Members include Algeria, Burundi, Cuba, Congo, Indonesia, Liberia, Syria and Vietnam.
In addition, the two-week standoff over the surveillance plane and its 24 detained crew members threw an overtly political cast over the discussions.
The Americans were reluctant to press the case against China while Washington and Beijing were negotiating the release of the air crew, observers said.
"They did very little lobbying for the resolution during the period when the crew was held in China," said one longtime observer. "There has been extremely little activity here on the resolution."
The Chinese delegation and their allies in Libya, Cuba, Syria and Russia, among others — all voting members of the commission this year — invoked the mid-air collision in debate prior to yesterdays vote.
Chinese Ambassador Qiao Zonghuai delivered an angry speech in which he criticized the United States for its selectivity in punishing human rights violations. He said America practices "rampant racial discrimination."
He then said: "In the name of exercising the so-called right of surveillance, has sent military planes to violate the sovereignty and peoples right to life of another country."
The Pakistani delegate, Munir Akram, provided the days only comic relief when he supported Chinas no-action vote, saying to the Americans: "Im sorry, but this is not an apology."
The Libyan representative said that the Cold War was not yet over.
U.S. Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli denounced the no-action motion.
"No country should consider itself beyond review," she said. "China should follow the same international standards that every other country does."
For the first time this year, the United States stood alone in sponsoring the resolution to censure China, without a customary European co-sponsor.
The resolution criticized Chinas treatment of Falun Gong adherents, as well as Tibetans, Christians, Buddhists, and others.
But it also recognized Beijings lessened interference in the daily lives of its citizens.
Observers said the lack of a co-sponsor doomed the resolution by allowing China to portray the resolution as part of a bilateral conflict.
"That was the main reason this thing was so hopeless," said Joanna Weschler, the U.N. liaison for Human Rights Watch International.
"When a resolution has only one sponsor, it sends a very powerful signal. The discussion in this room was, 'China versus the U.S., not about Chinas human rights record," she said.
The United States is among Chinas harshest critics on human rights issues.
The State Departments 2000 report on human rights says Chinas "poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses.
"The government intensified crackdowns on religion and in Tibet, intensified its harsh treatment of political dissent, and suppressed any person or group perceived to threaten the government."
China has made an art of lobbying swing votes on the commission, say experts, who cite the success of President Jiang Zemins recent tour of the seven Latin and Central American nations on the commission.
Mr. Jiang left China in the middle of the surveillance plane crisis for a whirlwind tour of six Latin American countries, five of which were on the commission and voted with China yesterday.
"Im very disappointed in the Latins," said Ms. Weschler. "Its all money and business."
The Europeans on the commission, along with Canada and Poland, voted against Chinas motion, but had declined to co-sponsor the human rights resolution with the United States.
Members of the European Union signed onto the resolution until 1996.
Poland has co-signed with the United States for the last two years, but refused this year.
Polish officials could not be reached for comment last night.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher claimed a degree of victory.
"We had two goals in sponsoring this resolution: to encourage China to adhere to international standards of human rights and to focus international attention on the worsening human rights situation in China in the past year," he said.

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