Fac­ing crit­i­cism, Clin­ton vows to keep China fo­cus on hu­man rights

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective - BY NI­CHOLAS KRALEV

Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on Feb. 25 asked hu­man rights ad­vo­cates to judge her by re­sults and not by her re­cent com­ments that ap­peared to down­play U.S. con­cerns over China’s rights record.

Mrs. Clin­ton used the release of the State Depart­ment’s an­nual re­port on hu­man rights to re­spond to crit­i­cism of her com­ments in Asia one week ear­lier that the is­sue should not “in­ter­fere” with U.S.-Chi­nese progress on other is­sues such as cli­mate change, eco­nomic and se­cu­rity mat­ters.

The re­port was highly crit­i­cal of China.

“I will con­tinue to fo­cus my own en­er­gies on hu­man rights,” she said. “I’m looking for re­sults. I’m looking for changes that ac­tu­ally im­prove the lives of the great­est num­bers of peo­ple. Hope­fully, we will be judged over time by suc­cess­ful re­sults from th­ese ef­forts.”

As she headed to Bei­jing on Feb. 20, Mrs. Clin­ton said that hu­man rights are “part of our agenda with the Chi­nese,” but the is­sue “can’t in­ter­fere” with other is­sues such as the global eco­nomic cri­sis.

The two largest rights groups, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Hu­man Rights Watch, called her re­marks dam­ag­ing. Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith, New Jer­sey Repub­li­can, ac­cused her of “a shock- ing dis­play of pan­der­ing” to China and of hav­ing “dis­missed, de­val­ued and de­based hu­man rights” in the coun­try.

On Feb. 25, Mrs. Clin­ton said that she will make im­prov­ing hu­man rights “a global ef­fort that reaches be­yond gov­ern­ments alone.”

“I in­tend for us to work with non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­nesses, re­li­gious leaders, schools and uni­ver­si­ties, as well as in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens, all of whom can play a vi­tal role in cre­at­ing a world where hu­man rights are ac­cepted, re­spected and pro­tected,” she said.

Amnesty’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor in the United States, Larry Cox, said Mrs. Clin­ton was at­tempt­ing with her Feb. 25 com­ments to “show that the U.S. is not back­ing off from hu­man rights.”

The State Depart­ment re­port said the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s “hu­man rights record re­mained poor and wors­ened in some ar­eas,” and that it in­cluded “ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, tor­ture and co­erced con­fes­sions of pris­on­ers, and the use of forced la­bor, in­clud­ing prison la­bor.”

“The gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued to mon­i­tor, ha­rass, de­tain, ar­rest and im­prison jour­nal­ists, writ­ers, ac­tivists and de­fense lawyers and their fam­i­lies, many of whom were seek­ing to ex­er­cise their rights un­der the law,” the doc­u­ment said. It also crit­i­cized China’s en­force­ment of its one- child pol­icy and China’s treat­ment of refugees from North Korea.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials dis­miss U.S. crit­i­cism of their hu­man rights poli­cies as an at­tempt to im­pose West­ern val­ues on China.

Dur­ing her visit to Bei­jing, Mrs. Clin­ton said she raised the is­sue with Chi­nese of­fi­cials, and For­eign Min­is­ter Yang Jiechi con­firmed they dis­cussed it in a “re­spect­ful man­ner.”

The re­port for 2008 ex­am­ines the sta­tus of hu­man rights in more than 190 coun­tries dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fi­nal year in of­fice. The coun­tries most crit­i­cized in­clude Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Myan­mar, North Korea, Su­dan, Syria, So­ma­lia and Zim­babwe.

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