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Anti-China motion disrupts human rights talk
By Shao Zongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-23 22:35

China Tuesday suspended its human rights dialogue and exchanges with the United States, following a US decision to introduce an anti-China motion at a United Nations human rights conference.

The United States, by insisting on confrontation, has seriously undermined the premise for bilateral human rights dialogues, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang.

"China cannot but suspend the dialogue immediately, and the US side should be held responsible for any consequences thereafter," said Shen, when making solemn representations to the US Ambassador to China Clark Randt.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan also expressed China's "strong indignation and firm opposition" towards the US decision.

Kong told a regular news media briefing Tuesday that the US decision was made with motives towards domestic politics rather than for human rights in an attempt to interfere in China's internal affairs under the guise of human rights.

Observers in Beijing hold that with the US presidential election approaching, the move is a Republican ploy to win votes.

Tao Wenzhao, with the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted the action could be effective since human rights interest groups in the United States tend to lean toward the Democratic Party.

On Monday, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that the United States is concerned about "backsliding on key human rights issues in a variety of areas" in China.

But Dong Yunhu, vice-president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, refuted Boucher's remarks, saying that on the contrary, China has made progress in key human rights areas over the past year.

Dong cited the amendment to the Constitution earlier this month that adds a clause stipulating that the State respects and preserves human rights, the increasing stress on people in the nation's governing philosophy and in judicial reforms such as the eradication of extended custody.

Dong added the new government attention being paid to the balanced development between coastal areas and the hinterlands, and between urban and rural areas will also improve human rights conditions in China.

Shen agreed, saying that the US motion is "groundless," according to a Foreign Ministry news release.

Shen told Randt that the Chinese Government cares about Chinese people's human rights more than any other country and that China firmly opposes any interference from any country.

Human rights is one of the issues that often stirs up discord between China and the United States. Chinese officials have, on various occasions, urged dialogue instead of confrontation so the two nations can better understand one another in the area of human rights.

Shen said related bilateral consultations were underway, but the US side ran against its commitment by deciding to introduce the motion.

"That fully shows the US side was determined to stir up confrontation," Shen said. "It is a typical behaviour of politicizing the human rights issue and exercising a double standard. It is doomed to meet with opposition by the international community."

Since 1990, the United States has repeatedly tabled anti-China motions to the annual UN human rights conference in Geneva, but all have failed.

"The fundamental cause (for the United States introduction of the motion) lies in United States' ideological and political prejudice," said Dong in an interview.

He added the US move is an attempt to contain China's development by tarnishing its international image.

The motion, if adopted by the 53-member UN Human Rights Commission -- which is holding its annual session in Geneva -- does not lead to any penalties but attracts the international spotlight on a nation's human rights conditions and record.

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