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<-Back to WTN Archives Report Cites 'More Freedom' for Chinese Human rights: U.S. study sees positive trend in Communist nation. State Department findings echo Clinton policy objectives.
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Saturday, January 31, 1998

3. Report Cites 'More Freedom' for Chinese Human rights: U.S. study sees positive trend in Communist nation. State Department findings echo Clinton policy objectives.

Los Angeles Times, Saturday, January 31, 1998
By NORMAN KEMPSTER, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON--Despite Beijing's often draconian punishment of
dissenters, the average Chinese citizen enjoys "more personal freedom
than ever before," the State Department said Friday in its annual
report on human rights conditions in 194 nations around the world.

The report was a striking reappraisal by the Clinton
administration, which last year said China's human rights record was
so bad that all the government's opponents were either in jail or in

"There have been some positive developments," Assistant Secretary
of State John Shattuck said at a news conference. "And these reports
are always intended to reflect and encourage further positive
developments when they actually occur."

At the same time, he said, the Chinese regime remains repressive,
limiting political activity, restricting religious observance and
enforcing its rule with a harsh penal system marked by torture and
forced confessions. And the report said conditions in Tibet were as
bad as ever.

In Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese sovereignty on July 1,
the report said fears that the new government would undermine
fundamental human rights "to date . . . have been unfounded."

"There has been some progress [in China], but certainly more
progress is called for," Shattuck said.

This year's report also found improvement in the human rights
records of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Egypt, Guatemala and other
countries that received very low marks last year.

The report was highly critical of Sudan, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria,
Cuba, Belarus, Algeria, Afghanistan and Colombia, concluding that the
level of repression reported last year had either remained the same in
those countries or had worsened.

The department said Mohammad Khatami, Iran's new president, "has
publicly stated his intention to loosen constraints on freedom of
expression, and some signs of this have been observed." But the report
said that, overall, Iran's human rights record remains poor.

* * *

Although Shattuck insisted that the report is "based entirely and
exclusively on facts," the department's assessment often bolstered
President Clinton's foreign policy objectives.

For instance, Shattuck said conditions in Bosnia have improved
markedly, primarily because of steps taken by the NATO-led
multinational force. Clinton is seeking congressional approval to keep
U.S. forces in Bosnia after next June, arguing that progress toward
democracy there is "unmistakable but not yet irreversible."

"I believe when the dust settles, history will mark 1997 as the
turning point toward peace and justice in Bosnia," Shattuck said.
"Through a series of elections, pluralism began to take hold in some
Serb areas, and the Pale war criminals and hard-liners were
increasingly isolated. More refugees began to return to their homes."

He said the number of indicted war criminals in custody tripled,
from eight to 24, last year.

Even so, the report said, serious problems continue in Bosnia. It
acknowledged that the reduction in ethnic conflict "owed less to
reconciliation than to the groups' continuing separation."

The report was the 21st since 1978. The department makes no
attempt to rank nations on their adherence to human rights. Instead,
each of the 194 countries was compared to its own previous record.

This year the report contained expanded segments on two topics
high on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's priority
list--religious liberty and women's rights.

The department reported religious persecution in Sudan, where the
Muslim-led government kills, imprisons and enslaves non-Muslims; in
Iran, which sharply restricts the rights of non-Muslims; and in Saudi
Arabia, where Islam is the only permitted religion.

It also said China sometimes jails people for religious activity
outside the government-registered churches and mosques, although it
reported early signs of what may turn out to be a relaxation of
Chinese religious suppression.

The department reported violations of women's rights in
Bangladesh, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, Turkey, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and
other countries.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. US blasts Asia's regimes, says China showing more tolerance
  2. US points finger at rights abuses, goes easier on China
  3. Report Cites 'More Freedom' for Chinese Human rights: U.S. study sees positive trend in Communist nation. State Department findings echo Clinton policy objectives.

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