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U.S. Department of State

Article #1: Human Rights and Democracy in Asia

John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Statement before the Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific and International Operations and Human Rights of the House International Relations Committee, Washington, DC, March 16, 1995. An excerpt from Dispatch Volume 6, number 14, Article 6, page 273.

China, the largest and most populous country in Asia, continues to engage in very serious human rights abuses. As we noted in our annual human rights report, 1994 brought no improvement in the human rights situation in China. There continued to be widespread and well-documented examples of the authorities' intolerance of dissent and sharp restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and religion. Additional abuses include instances of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention without public trial, long detention of Tibetans for peacefully expressing their political and religious views, and the arrest and detention of persons on freedom of speech.

We also remain concerned about reports of coercive family planning practices, particularly in rural areas of China. This issue is regularly brought up during our human rights dialogue. I also have raised this issue at relevant Chinese ministries, as have others in the Administration, including Under Secretary Wirth. Physical compulsion to submit to abortion or sterilization is not authorized, but Chinese officials acknowledge privately that there are instances where it occurs. Officials also have maintained that those responsible are disciplined and undergo retraining. We have asked the Chinese Government for examples of cases where such discipline has occurred, and the Chinese agreed to provide us with such an accounting--but have not yet done so.

China is also an extraordinarily dynamic and diverse country that is undergoing a sweeping economic transformation while facing a leadership transition. Its diversity can be seen in the human rights situation last year. Greater disposable income, looser ideological controls, and freer access to outside sources of information led to more freedom in cultural life and media reporting. In several instances, the government acted to move toward conformity with internationally accepted norms, and it continued to acknowledge the need for the rule of law and the necessary legal structure to implement it. Here, however, I stress that, in practice, China's legal reform efforts have not yet had a significant effect on protecting the rights granted to citizens in China's constitution and criminal and administrative procedure laws.

In May 1994, President Clinton announced his decision to delink China's most-favored-nation status from its near-term human rights performance. At that time he also set forth five initiatives aimed at promoting human rights:

-- Bilateral diplomacy;
-- Multilateral diplomacy;
-- Working to encourage the development of China's civil society;
-- Working with the U.S. business community to promote human rights; and
-- International broadcasting.

All five are moving forward. Over the last 18 months, the United States has had the most intensive human rights dialogue with China that it has had with any country in the world. Our most recent round--the seventh-- took place in Beijing in mid-January. In these dialogues we have raised core issues--freedom of speech, association, and religion and the treatment of prisoners and persons detained by the government--but have also sought to broaden and make substantive our engagement on the rule of law and legal exchanges.

We have continued our efforts to work for improvements in the human rights situation in China in multilateral fora. Last week, together with 26 other countries, we sponsored a China resolution at the UN. The U.S. worked with other sponsors to put together a coalition of countries that, for the first time, included a non-Western majority of countries from all regions of the world to support a China human rights resolution. Also for the first time, China failed in its efforts to pass a "no-action" motion and prevent its human rights practices from coming under international scrutiny, and the resolution itself fell short only by one vote.

Consultations continue with U.S. businesses, human rights NGOs, labor organizations, and the Congress on a set of voluntary business principles to be used by U.S. business in China and elsewhere. We also are working on increased support for U.S. NGOs active in China with the aim of promoting a stronger civil society. The Voice of America has increased its programming to China, and Radio Free Asia will commence broadcasting as soon as possible.

[end of document]


Prepared for the National Federation of State High School Associations 1996 Showcase Debate on China

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