Dr. Condoleezza Rice
National Security Adviser
The White House
Washington, DC 20504
February 1, 2001
Dear Dr. Rice:
As members of the human rights community, we are writing to urge immediate U.S. leadership in advancing a China resolution with other co-sponsors at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting this spring. We offer our assistance in this effort as we believe the U.N. Commission is a critical component of a broader strategy to encourage meaningful progress on China’s human rights record.
As you know, the human rights situation in China has deteriorated significantly over the last year. Human rights organizations as well as government representatives confirm that China’s repression of political dissidents, unregistered religious groups, Tibetans, Uighurs, and labor organizers increased in 2000. While China has indicated some movement towards “official” acceptance with international human rights standards, abusive campaigns and conduct against its citizens continue to belie the government’s recognition of basic human freedoms.
In this context, it is vital that the United States once again take the lead in Geneva. Abandoning this multilateral effort in the early days of the new Bush administration would send the wrong signal to the Chinese leadership that human rights are not a key priority in U.S. policy. In the past, the U.S. has based its decision to sponsor a resolution in the Human Rights Commission on China’s human rights record for the previous year. We believe that the U.N. Commission is the most appropriate multilateral forum to censure the Chinese government for failing to uphold its international human rights obligations, especially after a year with so many well-documented violations.
While we understand the challenges to a new administration in mounting an effort soon after the transition, we are confident that a decision to take the lead in Geneva would reflect President Bush’s own vision for a principled and pragmatic approach to promoting greater freedom in China. Such a step would also demonstrate the administration’s commitment to working more effectively through multilateral fora on key policy concerns. We urge that any language for a resolution on China be developed jointly with other potential co-sponsors in order to facilitate genuine collaboration and stronger support.
We are aware that the crucial, yet often fragile, American relationship with China is among the most pressing issues on your policy agenda. The signals that you send to the Chinese in the earliest months of your term will shape their expectations and the bounds of policy over the next few years. We strongly believe that an effective effort in Geneva is an important part of a comprehensive long-term strategy to promote reform and a freer society in China – a strategy which will be enhanced this year as China eagerly anticipates a July vote on the 2008 Olympics venue.
We would be pleased to discuss this issue with you further at your convenience.
Program Director, Asia
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights
International Labor Rights Fund
Human Rights Watch (Asia Division)
Mary Beth Markey
Director, Government Relations
International Campaign for Tibet
Director, Washington office
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Human Rights in China
Miriam A. Young
Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace