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US lawmakers urge China to fulfill Olympic commitments to protect human rights

US lawmakers urge China to fulfill Olympic commitments to protect human rights

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers said China should be held accountable for promises to protect human rights, press freedom and the environment that were made when China was awarded the 2008 Olympics.
The United States, the lawmakers said Wednesday, will be watching closely how China responds to outside calls for change as the summer Olympics approach. Many appeared deeply skeptical that China's pledges were sincere or that changes that have been made would last beyond the Olympics.
"We expect the Chinese government to keep its word," Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan said during a meeting of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The panel was created by Congress in 2000 to monitor China's respect for civil liberties.
Republican Rep. Chris Smith said that "the Olympics will certainly not be a time to remain silent." Ed Royce, another Republican congressman, said the Olympics could provide "key leverage" for the United States to push for greater freedoms in China.
Beijing said that its citizens' human rights are protected under the Chinese constitution, and that it welcomed renewed dialogue on the issue. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao also suggested the U.S. politicians were biased in their views.
"We hope relevant people, congressmen, can view our progress made in human rights objectively and take off their colored glasses. I believe that would be beneficial to the development of Chinese human rights," he said at a news conference.
For years, critics in the U.S. Congress have taken China to task for what they describe as unfair trade practices; currency manipulation; use of the Internet to suppress dissidents; failure to use its leverage to stop violence in Sudan's Darfur region; and a rapid, secretive military buildup.
China hopes a successful August Olympics will signal its emergence as a world power. The games' approach has focused intense international and U.S. congressional attention on what rights groups say is Beijing's oppression of religious freedom, minorities, the media and those who criticize the government.
China's communist leaders have been cracking down on dissent ahead of the Olympics. Several U.S. lawmakers mentioned Wednesday the case of activist Hu Jia, who was taken from his home in December and charged with inciting subversion.
China and the United States agreed this week to resume a human rights dialogue that China stopped in 2004, when the Bush administration unsuccessfully sponsored a resolution before the U.N. Human Rights Commission to censure China.
Representatives of human rights, labor and journalist protection groups at the meeting were critical largely of China's claims that it has improved its rights policies.
Sophie Richardson, of Human Rights Watch, said that if the world does not pressure China to change, outsiders will be tacitly endorsing Chinese repression. Because China "desperately wants" a positive international reaction to the games, especially from the United States, world pressure probably would lead to change, she said.
Roger Martella, general counsel with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that after the Olympics, the world probably would remember China's environmental and human rights achievements, "or lack thereof," more than how many medals Chinese athletes win.


Updated : 2021-05-12 17:18 GMT+08:00