- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2001

China's human rights record "worsened" in 2000, with "numerous serious abuses" of religious, political and press freedoms, the State Department said yesterday in its annual survey of global human rights practices.

The report, the 25th in a series and the first issued under President Bush, also criticized rights violations in two U.S. allies, Israel and Colombia, while praising the democratic revolution that overthrew the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia.

Michael E. Parmly, acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, confirmed yesterday that the Bush administration will sponsor a resolution critical of China at a U.N. conference on human rights to be held in Geneva in April. The Clinton administration supported such resolutions.

The report cites China's crackdown on Tibetan activists and followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, evidence of torture, and suppression of political dissent over the past year in condemning Beijing's record.

"I think if you read the report, it's hard to come to a conclusion that a resolution is not justified," said Mr. Parmly, who said the United States will not only sponsor the resolution but "put in the effort necessary" to enlist other nations to condemn China.

T. Kumar, director of Asia policy in the Washington office of Amnesty International, said the report's use of the word "worsened" was key in the section on China.

"This was the first test for the Bush administration, and we're very happy to see that they passed it," he said.

But Mr. Kumar said human rights groups would be watching closely for the "policy follow-up," including the use of top officials such as Secretary of State Colin Powell to lobby for the U.N. resolution.

China today denounced the report, saying Beijing would soon respond with a catalog of U.S. rights abuses, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"The U.S. report on human rights around the world had nothing to say about America's own human rights situation," said China's Cabinet.

China has long denounced U.S. criticisms in the annual reports as misguided and hypocritical. Officials in Beijing, who this week are hosting U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson, yesterday vowed not to let up in the campaign against Falun Gong believers, whom they say are part of a movement secretly planning to undermine the government.

"If the cult is not removed … the process of China's reform, opening up and socialist modernization drive will be affected," said an editorial in today's edition of the official People's Daily.

The State Department report faulted both Israeli security forces and the Palestinians for the violence that has plagued the region since September.

Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, was guilty of using "excessive force" in dealing with Palestinian street protests, according to the report.

"There were numerous credible allegations that [Israeli] police beat persons in detention," the report said. "Detention and prison conditions, particularly for Palestinian security detainees held in Israel, do not provide inmates with sufficient living space, food and access to medical care."

But Mr. Parmly said Israel was facing a very difficult situation on the ground.

"If the violence stops, I believe the abuses will stop," he said.

And Colombia, another major recipient of U.S. assistance, came in for sharp criticism even as President Andres Pastrana was in Washington for talks with Mr. Bush today on joint efforts to deal with drug trafficking and a brutal, long-running guerrilla war.

While the report noted that guerrilla and paramilitary forces committed most of the abuses, "the authorities rarely brought higher-ranking officers of the security forces and the police charged with human rights offenses to justice."

Mr. Pastrana, speaking with lawmakers during a visit to Capitol Hill yesterday, called the Colombia section "a fair report in terms of the reality that we are living under in Colombia."

"The president is the first one to suffer" when human rights are violated, Mr. Pastrana said.

The department report covers about 195 countries and territories and serves as a guide in setting U.S. policy.

Lengthy passages in the latest report detail human rights abuses and political repression in such repeat offenders as Iraq, Burma, Belarus, Cuba and North Korea.

The report also found that human rights had deteriorated in 2000 in Indonesia, which has been wracked by violent clashes between government forces and various separatist movements. Mr. Parmly said many of the "very troubling" abuses had proved beyond the ability of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid to control.

"It is the absence of government more than a misbehaving government," he said.

The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe came in for particularly sharp criticism this year, cited for its open support of a "campaign of political violence and intimidation" against opposition parties and white landowners.

"The government's poor human rights record worsened significantly during the year, and it committed serious abuses," the report said.

On the positive side, the report praised the ouster of Mr. Milosevic in Belgrade and moves toward greater democracy in Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico and Peru.

But the China passages will likely prove the most contentious, with Mr. Bush facing a decision this spring on possible new arms sales to Taiwan and scheduled to visit China this fall for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.

Mr. Parmly stressed that there were some positives in China's record last year, particularly in economic freedom and access to information.

But the progress came in spite of the government, not because of it, he added.

"The bottom line is that the [Chinese] government strives to suppress any activity that it perceives as a threat to the government," Mr. Parmly said.

• Tom Carter contributed to this report.

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