Wed, Mar 30, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US renews criticism of China, Pakistan

AP , WASHINGTON

The US State Department renewed its criticism of the human-rights records of Pakistan and China on Monday in a report that followed US decisions to arm Pakistan with jet fighters and to avoid a showdown with China on the way it treats its people.

The report, which focused on US efforts to improve human rights in 98 nations, was issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The report credited Pakistan with some human-rights improvements but a continuing poor record. It said Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf's government had amended the country's constitution to strengthen his powers at the expense of the National Assembly and that the military remains heavily engaged in politics.

It also cited Musharraf's decision to continue as the army chief, saying that had stirred political debate.

"The government has committed that new local elections will be scheduled for 2005 and national elections to be held no later than 2007 will be free and fair," the report said. "The United States will continue to encourage the government to adhere to this commitment and will provide needed support."

China is more heavily criticized in the report for suppressing political, social and religious groups and individuals.

China has amended its constitution to protect human rights and has adopted legal reforms for monitoring the government. But the report said "it is unclear how or to what extent the constitutional amendment and other legal reforms will be enforced."

US President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials consistently raise human-rights issues in their meetings with Chinese leaders, the report said.

Last week, the US rewarded Pakistan for its counterterrorism support with a green light to purchase more than a dozen F-16 jet fighter planes. The sale was cast in terms of an overall security boost for the region, including India and Afghanistan.

On Monday, thousands of opposition activists -- supporters of a coalition of radical Islamic groups -- rallied in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan, chanting "Death to dictatorship!" in the latest demonstration against President General Pervez Musharraf's grip on power.

Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak said the demonstration might reflect an easing of restrictions by the government.

"When you open up a situation, people make their views known," he said.

The Bush administration is insisting Pakistan adhere to a commitment to hold free and fair national elections in 2007, as scheduled.

Two weeks ago, the administration shelved a UN resolution criticizing China that had been prepared for an international human-rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Officials said they had worked out a deal a few days earlier with China on a half-dozen reforms, which included the release of a number of high-profile dissidents.

Publicly, the Bush administration has criticized China consistently for mistreating its people. The administration is also trying to persuade the European allies not to lift an embargo on weapons sales to China.

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