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China Under US Scrutiny

December 14, 2004

Guy Dinmore|Financial Times

Washington, DC, December 14–China’s human rights record, particularly its birth control policies, came under fire on Tuesday in Congress, as did the Bush administration for not putting Beijing under more pressure.

Senior administration officials, testifying before the House of Representatives committee on international relations, acknowledged what they called the continuation of serious human rights abuses in China amid signs of a new political crackdown. But they also defended the policy of addressing concerns through dialogue rather than by punitive action.

Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chaired the hearing, denounced the “appalling issue of the continued and systematic use of coercion” in enforcing China’s one-child policy. “Watering down human rights protections is the wrong approach,” Mr Smith said of US policy. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, said the Bush administration would take much tougher action against China if it were really guided by moral values.

Their statements, backed by Democrats, reflect the pressure from an increasingly conservative Congress for a more aggressive approach to human rights, particularly in China, North Korea, Iran and Cuba. Amnesty International, in its testimony, accused the US of appeasing China over the past four years.

Michael Kozak, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour, noted China’s use of the “war on terror” to justify its crackdown on minority Uighur Muslims and religious leaders. He also criticised Chinese efforts to control the internet and arrests of those who use it to discuss sensitive subjects. He cited the detentions this week of three activists. Mr Kozak defended the US response, saying President George W. Bush raised human rights each time he met his Chinese counterpart. He noted that last month China opened discussions on resuming a human rights dialogue that it broke off after the US sponsored a UN resolution condemning its record last March.

The US has stopped funding the UN Population Fund for three years, accusing it of supporting Chinese activities that lead to coercive abortions. The UN says its efforts are focused on moving China away from coercive policies, and that in the 32 counties where it is working the abortion ratio has fallen below that in the US.

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