Chinese try to ward off rights censure


Any attempt by Western countries to pass a resolution condemning China's human rights record when the UN Human Rights Commission meets later this month would fail like previous attempts, the Foreign Minister, Mr Tang Jiaxuan, told a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

"If somebody attempts to table an anti-China draft resolution again this year in Geneva, then I think the outcome will not be different from the previous seven times," Mr Tang said, adding that such an action would affect relations with Western countries. "On the question of human rights there will be no way out if you replace dialogue with confrontation."

The US and EU countries have yet to decide whether they will sponsor such a resolution. They declined to do so last year for the first time since 1989, opting for dialogue with China instead. But a new crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents has raised questions about the strategy.

The Clinton administration, which last week issued a scathing assessment of the state of human rights in China, has yet to show its hand but is under pressure from Congress to confront China on the issue. The US Senate voted 99-0 in February to urge the administration to censure China at the UN conference, which opens on March 22nd and lasts six weeks.

Mr Tang seemed confident that Europe would avoid confrontation, despite misgivings among EU governments about China's imprisonment of several pro-democracy activists. China and the overwhelming majority of European countries were agreed on dialogue rather than confrontation, he said. "I believe there are very bright prospects for the continued growth of China-EU relations."

In a rare and wide-ranging news conference on the fringes of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, Mr Tang also urged the EU to halt anti-dumping investigations which he called "trade protectionism against China".

He criticised the US for contemplating a missile defence system in Asia and said including Taiwan would harm chances of a peaceful reunification with the island. The inclusion of Taiwan under theatre missile defence (TMD) "would amount to an encroachment on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also be an obstruction to the great cause of peaceful reunification of the motherland," he said.