Washington, D.C. On the eve of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s arrival in Beijing, citing unspecified “encouraging signals” from Chinese authorities on certain human rights issues, the US Government has announced that it will not sponsor a resolution criticizing China’s human rights record at the current session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
Today’s announcement on the resolution, made as China announced the release of prominent Uyghur political prisoner Rebiyah Kadeer on medical parole, seems to signal a move away from the U.S. stance of basing its actions in Geneva on the human rights situation on the ground. Kadeer, who has long been at the top of the U.S. government’s list of priority political prisoners, is due to arrive in Washington, D.C. this evening.
“The timing of the announcement on the human rights resolution would seem to indicate that the United States is willing to trade off the resolution in order to ensure that Dr. Rice has a smooth trip to China. By sending this message to the Chinese, we are disappointed that the U.S. appears to be falling back into the trap of political prisoner trade-offs and empty summitry that the Bush Administration disavowed in its first term,” said Mary Beth Markey, Executive Director of ICT.
In February, the U.S. State Department released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004, which found that Chinese authorities in Tibet “continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killing, torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetans for peacefully expressing their political or religious views.” The report additionally found that repressive social and political controls continued to limit the fundamental freedoms of Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.
The February report also referred to a lack of Chinese response to queries regarding specific abuses, such as a call for an inquiry into the death in custody of Nyima Dragpa, a monk from Nyatso Monastery in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, allegedly from severe beatings. Sources in the US government had previously indicated to ICT that there was frustration with China’s efforts to use the Kadeer case as a bargaining chip.
Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, who serves concurrently as the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, addressed today’s session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. In her remarks, Dobriansky stressed the theme of democratic governance, calling democracy “the best guarantor of the inalienable human rights this Commission exists to protect.”
In a nod to Commission critics who judge its work as increasingly held hostage by chronic human rights violators among its members, Dobriansky concluded: “We need to put a stop to the trend of the world’s worst human rights abusers securing membership on the Commission to deflect criticism of their abuses at home…If we do not reclaim this Commission for its mandate, we are allowing this body to be tarnished and turning our backs on those still fighting for the freedoms we possess.”
Although China is a leader of the so-called “Like-minded Group” that attempts to use their seats on the Commission to block consideration of country-specific resolutions, Dobriansky did not did not specifically mention the unhelpful role they have played.