- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

GENEVA — China is confident it can muster the numbers to derail a U.S.-sponsored resolution critical of Beijing’s human rights record, senior Asian and Western diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Washington, however, is determined to push ahead and submit the motion in the 53-member United Nations Human Rights Commission.

“We will go ahead on this China resolution. The victims in China deserve it. We have an obligation to do it,” U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson said in an interview.

In the last couple of years, the United States did not sponsor a resolution against China. But in past efforts by successive U.S. administrations, China used what is known as a “no-action motion” to successfully block the rights body from taking a vote to condemn its record.

According to U.N. rules, if a member country moves a motion seeking no action be taken on a proposal, that motion gets priority over the proposal itself.

Mr. Williamson yesterday repeated U.S. opposition to the tactic.

No-action motion “is a procedural gimmick by countries that want to avoid the light of day to shine upon their abuses,” he said. “It undercuts the credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of this body.”

Private human rights organizations and Western diplomats say the draft resolution that Washington has started to circulate in diplomatic circles is “mild” and stops short of condemning human rights violations by China.

Nevertheless, China’s ambassador said his country would vigorously oppose the resolution.

Earlier, Ambassador Sha Zukang said it was regrettable that “certain countries clung to Cold War mentalities, or worse, [and] allowed domestic considerations to drive resolutions.”

He was apparently referring to the upcoming presidential election in the United States.

Mr. Williamson insisted that it was the recent “backsliding” by China in the human rights domain that led Washington to go for a motion.

“I would say to those who are critical of the text: Work with us, encourage other countries to join us,” he said.

The thrust of the draft U.S. resolution, which is still subject to changes, outlines concerns about “continuing reports of severe restrictions of freedom of assembly, association, expression, conscience and religion ….”

It is also critical of “arrests and other severe sentences for seeking to exercise their fundamental rights, including in Tibet.”

In a bid to ward off mounting political pressure in the United States, China recently agreed to allow U.N. independent experts, including an authority on torture, Theo van Boden, to visit the country in June.

But Mr. Williamson indicated the gesture by Beijing was a too late.

“We hope Beijing continues to take steps to address these violations of human rights. Any steps that are taken are welcome, any steps that are taken we support; but 12th hour appeals at the courthouse are not sufficient to divert us from our obligations to the victims of human rights.”

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