- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday warned China that the Bush administration will raise Beijing's poor record on human rights and do it "frankly."
In a half-hour meeting with departing Chinese Ambassador Li Zhaoxing, Mr. Powell "made clear that we would raise human rights issues and we would raise them frankly," department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"Frank" is often used as a diplomatic euphemism for "forceful."
Mr. Powell told the Chinese ambassador that the United States believes that "China needed to follow the rule of law, that China needed to be … exposed to the powerful forces of free-enterprise systems and democracy," Mr. Boucher said.
The secretary's assertions followed a day after five devotees of the Falun Gong spiritual movement set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square to protest the Chinese government's crackdown on the group's religious activities. One protester died in the incident, timed for the eve of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year.
Chinese security forces ringed the huge square in central Beijing yesterday to prevent more demonstrations by the Falun Gong, banned by the government in July 1999 as an "evil cult" bent on overthrowing the Communist regime. Falun Gong followers practice meditation and deep-breathing exercises, which they say improve their health and sense of well-being.
Tuesday's protest was not mentioned in China's tightly controlled press.
Mr. Boucher said Mr. Powell urged China to practice "tolerance and the rule of law." The meeting, the first Mr. Powell has had with any foreign envoy, was scheduled because Mr. Li is returning home to take a senior post at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The meeting touched on a number of topics, including U.S. policy on Taiwan and the proposed U.S. missile-defense system, which President Bush supports and the Chinese have sharply criticized.
Mr. Powell repeated the past U.S. commitment to the three U.S.-China communiques concluded in 1972, 1978 and 1982. The communiques are not treaties and must be reaffirmed or rejected each time a new administration comes into office. They are the basis for U.S. policy toward China.
An administration defense official said committing the United States to the 1982 communique undercuts Pentagon efforts to review U.S. policy on arms sales to Taiwan. That agreement sets out U.S. intentions to reduce arms sales to Taiwan. In his successful presidential campaign, Mr. Bush promised to do more to help Taiwan defend itself against attack from the mainland.
Mr. Boucher said Mr. Powell and Mr. Li did not discuss the Falun Gong demonstration, but the secretary did express U.S. unhappiness with the official campaign in China against the Falun Gong.
"We call on China to release all those detained or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their internationally recognized rights to freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of conscience," Mr. Boucher said.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy estimates that 20,000 Falun Gong adherents have been detained by the government and 59 have died in police custody.
Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi lives in exile in the United States and recently urged his followers to take a more aggressive defense against the official crackdown.
Separately, the European Union made public on Monday its own condemnation of Beijing's human rights record. EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels approved a statement saying they "remain much concerned at the lack of progress in a number of areas."
This includes concerns about "continuing widespread restrictions on freedom of assembly, expression and association, the violations of freedom of religion and belief, the situations of minorities, including in Tibet, and the frequent and extensive recourse to the death penalty," according to a statement issued by the Swedish government, the current president of the EU.
Beijing has denounced Western criticism on human rights and Tibet as an interference in its internal affairs. Critics of the Chinese government are pushing hard for a resolution critical of China's record at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva this spring.
Beijing has lately shown itself even more sensitive to outside criticism of its human rights record as it prepares a bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, regarded as a top priority by China's leaders.
Mr. Boucher said the timing of yesterday's meeting so early in Mr. Powell's tenure was dictated by the fact that Mr. Li had been called home to take a Foreign Ministry post. "The timing of this particular meeting was dictated by Ambassador Li's departure, rather than by any sort of strategic plan," he said.
Bill Gertz contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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