The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed H.Res.530 calling on the United States to introduce a resolution censuring China at the 60th session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, beginning on March 15 in Geneva. H.Res.530 passed with 402 votes in favor and only two against (30 Representatives did not vote).

H.Res.530 cited recent reports by the Department of State, the U.S. Commission on International Relations and international human rights organizations that found China guilty of continued, well-documented human rights abuses as justification for U.S. action in Geneva.

The House resolution also noted that “troubling incidents” of human rights violations have occurred in China, despite the engagement of the United States and China in a bilateral human rights dialogue.

The resolution specifically raised concerns about the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima; the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan lama who currently faces a death sentence; and the forcible repatriation of 18 Tibetan refugees by the Nepal government in collusion with the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu.

Although U.S. officials have hinted that a China resolution is under active consideration, with less than two weeks to go before the Commission convenes no decision has been announced. Despite these public pronouncements on a possible resolution, ICT has learned from State Department sources that the U.S. continues to make last ditch efforts to secure significant human rights commitments from Beijing, possibly in the hopes of avoiding a China resolution at the Commission. China has repeatedly threatened that a U.S. sponsored resolution would strain U.S.-China relations.

In 2003, the U.S. failed to put forward a resolution at the Commission on the basis of Chinese commitments to pursue improvements. These improvements failed to materialize and the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights for 2003 documented significant backsliding on human rights.

On February 24 China released a Tibetan nun, Phuntsog Nyidron, one year early after serving 15 years in prison for “counter-revolutionary” crimes. Phuntsog Nyidrol and five other nuns had demonstrated briefly to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. Her sentence was extended after she and 13 other nuns recorded songs about their devotion to Tibet and the Dalai Lama and smuggled the tape out of prison. H.Res.530 called for the “release from detention of all prisoners of conscience.”

“We acknowledge that U.S. pressure, under the threat of a resolution at the Human Rights Commission, could compel China to take some action from a menu of human rights concerns. But China has demonstrated a mastery of this kind of brinksmanship, and we are concerned that the United States will accept a last minute gesture – perhaps the recent release of Phuntsog Nyidrol – as sufficient justification for letting China escape censor at this most important human rights forum,” said Mary Beth Markey, U.S. Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet.

“If the United States yields on a China resolution for anything less than systemic change, we can conclude that the United States has either been out-maneuvered or that there has been a trade off between principled action on human rights and some other bilateral interest,” said Markey.

Sponsors of H.Res.530 were eager to move the resolution before the Bush Administration finalized its decision. During floor consideration of the resolution, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) accused China of “plundering a neighbor and wiping out its culture” and cited Hu Jintao’s role in suppressing Tibetans as governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who introduced H.Res.530 urged House Members to remember the many victims of China’s abusive policies and called on the Administration to “bring out the facts” about China’s human rights record, and cited the “moral duty and obligation” of the administration to vigorously pursue this resolution.

“I would hope that the administration would, and I believe they will, work to get this resolution passed,” Rep. Smith continued.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) said that Phuntsog Nyidron’s release “was a positive step, but it was not sufficient.”

Also speaking on H.Res.530, Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) charged China with a “lack of commitment” and using deceptive rhetoric on human rights and concluded that additional pressure is necessary.