Bush may back bid to fault China rights record

Bush may back bid to fault China rights record

President George W. Bush is expected to throw his weight behind a U.N. resolution faulting China's human rights record, sources in Congress, activist groups and the diplomatic community said on Thursday.

"We will have a resolution," one nongovernmental source told Reuters.

"I fully expect they (the administration) will back a resolution," a congressional source said.

A State Department spokesman said a "formal" decision had not yet been taken. The White House referred queries to the State Department.

The annual question of such a resolution has traditionally been a source of extreme irritation between the United States and China.

How Bush handles it this year will help set his administration's tone toward Beijing. It is the new president's first major decision on China.

Bush is also facing another early decision that could be even touchier than human rights - whether to sell new weapons to Taiwan, and if so, how many. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province. That decision is not expected until April. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights holds its annual meeting in Geneva in mid-March.

The United States, reflecting strong American concern over Beijing's record, usually sponsors or supports a resolution at the U.N. meeting in Geneva criticizing Chinese human rights abuses.

Given that record, it would be extremely difficult for Bush not to continue the pattern, especially since the State Department and most human rights groups agree that Beijing's human rights record has worsened over the past year.

Beijing has been faulted for increasingly harsh treatment of protesters from the Falun Gong religions group, widespread use of torture and curbs on the Internet.

PRESSURE FOR STRONG BID TO CRITICIZE CHINARepublican and Democratic senators and congressmen in recent days have put bipartisan pressure on Secretary of State Colin Powell and Bush to make a strong effort to persuade the U.N. commission to adopt the China human rights resolution.

Except for last year, the U.S. campaign on behalf of the U.N. censure traditionally has been lackluster and hence, largely symbolic, drawing little backing from other countries.

As a result, China over the past decade has almost always escaped even a direct vote on the issue.

Beijing has defused support for the resolution by offering formal human rights dialogues to those countries that do not back the critical U.N. action.

Some China experts and U.S. policy-makers have therefore, seriously questioned why the United States should again participate in an exercise of questionable value that does little or nothing to change the behavior of a major world power with which Washington has lots of other serious issues.

Mike Jendrejczyk of Human Rights Watch is among those who has urged Bush to throw his weight behind a China resolution. But he said it would only be effective if the United States mounted a serious campaign to persuade reluctant European and other allies to join Washington's effort.

China said on Thursday that Western countries thinking of pushing a U.N. human rights resolution should "draw lessons from past failures" and abandon plans to censure Beijing.

China's anti-Falun Gong campaign has unfolded while China and many Western states have held regular human rights exchanges.

Rights groups say more than 100 people have died in police custody and thousands have been imprisoned in labor camps without trial as part of China's campaign against the religious group.

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