Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 1 News List

China's abuses worsen: US

HUMAN RIGHTS The US state department says that engagement with China has failed to improve matters


The State Department concluded Monday that despite seven years of deepening American economic engagement with China, the human rights situation there had worsened significantly, with "intensified crackdowns" on religious organizations, political dissenters and "any person or group perceived to threaten the government."

The department's annual review of human rights in 195 countries and territories, the Bush administration's first, also offered a harsh assessment of how Israel dealt with Palestinian uprisings last year. It described Indonesia as a nation increasingly out of control, where random killings and lawlessness are becoming the norm.

And the report states that Colombia, whose president, Andres Pastrana, is to meet Bush in the White House on Tuesday, is far from bringing paramilitary groups under control.

The report concludes that in Colombia, where the US is providing a US$1.3 billion, two-year, mostly military, aid package, "paramilitary forces find a ready support base within the military and police, as well as among local civilian elites in many areas."

While the report praises Pastrana, it denounces massacres and abuses by private and government security forces in the struggle against leftist rebels.

The department's report was assembled and drafted largely during the Clinton administration. But Secretary of State Colin Powell and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, had time to review the findings and in a few sensitive chapters, particularly on Israel, to alter some wording, Bush administration officials said.

On Monday the administration, as expected, announced that the US would pursue a resolution condemning China's record. It will be presented to the UN Human Rights Commission, which will meet in Geneva next month. The Clinton administration never succeeded in getting enough countries to join in the annual resolution to win passage, and it is unclear how much political capital the Bush administration is willing to expend to win support for a resolution that is almost certain to be defeated once again.

But the report poses a deeper problem for Bush: He must now choose the best path for influencing the rights records of other nations, a issue that vexed his predecessor for eight years.

Clinton insisted that over time, economic engagement with China would force the government to loosen its control over the political process. There is little evidence yet that the strategy is working.

The report is also harshly critical of conditions in three countries where the US has maintained nearly a full economic embargo: Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea. In each, the report found conditions were no better, and in some cases were worse.

Critics of both approaches -- engagement and isolation -- will find ammunition in the voluminous report.

"Their dilemma is the same [as Clinton's]," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, who follows Asia for Human Rights Watch. "The issue hasn't been whether to engage, but how."

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