By Jonathan Wright
WASHINGTON – The United States has decided not to sponsor a resolution critical of China at the annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, a U.S. official said on Friday.
The State Department official, who asked not to be identified, said the United States made the decision because of “some positive developments” in China’s human rights record and to give a chance to the new Chinese leadership. The meeting is underway in Geneva.
The annual U.S. report on human rights, released on April 1, said China’s record improved early in 2002, but U.S. officials said it deteriorated in late 2002 and early 2003.
A human rights organization said the United States had also abandoned plans to co-sponsor with the European Union a resolution on rights in the Russian territory of Chechnya. U.S. officials could not immediately confirm that development.
The human rights group Amnesty International said it was disappointed by the U.S. decision on China.
“By failing to sponsor a resolution, the U.S. is aiding China’s evasion of scrutiny of its human rights record,” said William Schulz, its executive director in the United States.
“China’s effort to avoid criticism abroad is paired with the authorities’ vigorous crackdown on human rights at home. China’s dismal — and deteriorating — human rights record cannot be covered up, and the U.S. ought to keep pressure on China to respect basic human rights,” he added.
Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for rights group Human Rights Watch, said the United States had also gone back on plans to co-sponsor the Chechnya resolution, on which the European Union had taken the lead. “They have left the EU out in the cold,” he told Reuters.
“This administration has plenty of moral courage when it comes to dealing with France and Germany but when it comes to Russia and China they are models of diplomatic circumspection,” Malinowski added.
The U.S. official linked the decision to the change in the Chinese leadership last month, when President Hu Jintao took over from Jiang Zemin.
The annual U.S. report accused China of a broad array of human rights violations including summary executions, torture, forced confessions, suppression of political dissent and denial of religious freedom.
But it also said that China took steps to address international concerns during 2002 by releasing some dissidents, inviting U.N. monitors to visit, allowing representatives of the Dalai Lama to enter China and expanding permitted religious activity in Tibet.
The U.S. official in charge of human rights affairs, asked at that time how the United States intended to deal with China at the annual meeting in Geneva, said the State Department was trying to weigh the positive and negative elements.
“The question we have not yet figured out is what is the future? Is that (progress in) 2002 the future or is the last couple of months the future,” said Lorne Craner, an assistant secretary of state. “The purpose of a resolution is to elicit progress … and that is what we are wrestling with.”
The United States did not present a resolution on China last year either but in that case it could not do so directly because it was not a member of the commission.
In previous years, United States had sponsored resolutions on China, but China usually succeeded in blocking them with procedural maneuvers.