Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary  for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations, Washington, DC, January 20, 1999


Human Rights in China

Chairman Gilman, Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to
appear today. I have already had the privilege of meeting with several of you,
and I look forward to meeting individually with all of you.  I know of the
commitment that Members of this Committee have demonstrated toward human rights
concerns, particularly in China. Your support has been bipartisan and I look
forward to working together to address the challenges we shall face over the
next few years.  I am especially pleased that this, my first official testimony
before the House International Relations Committee, provides me with an
opportunity to discuss the integral role that human rights play in the U.S.-
China relationship.

Mr. Chairman, our China policy is multifaceted and encompasses a wide range of
issues, including both human rights concerns and strategic issues.  Accompanying
me today to the hearing is Susan Shirk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East
Asian and Pacific Affairs. Before I turn to the subject of today's hearing --
human rights in China -- I would like to ask her to provide a brief overview of
the U.S.-China relationship.

Mr. Chairman, promoting increased respect for human rights is one of our highest
priorities for China.  As Deputy Assistant Secretary Shirk has explained, our
human rights policy rests on the premise, as the President said last night, that
"Stability can no longer be bought at the expense of liberty ... The more we
bring China into the world, the more we bring change and freedom into China."
Our objective is to facilitate systemic changes that will vastly expand the
freedom of all Chinese citizens, by persistently pursuing multiple avenues of
change within the context of a broad, multi-faceted relationship that addresses
human rights and other policy objectives.

For someone who cares deeply about human rights, recent developments in China
have been, frankly, deeply discouraging.  We have deplored in the strongest
terms the recent arrests, trials, and sentencing of Chinese activists who have
led efforts to establish an opposition political party.  We have criticized
press censorship and other efforts to prevent freedom of expression and
religious freedom in China.  Last week, I held a human rights dialogue with a
delegation led by China's Assistant Foreign Minister, Wang Guangya, in which I
raised and sought information about these and other human rights issues and
cases that are of deep concern both to the Administration and to Members of
Congress.  I made clear that these recent developments are steps in the wrong
direction. I told the Chinese delegation directly that these actions obstruct
the development of our bilateral relationship and urged them to take immediate
steps to repair the damage.

This difficult period reminds us that there is no quick fix to China's human
rights problems.  I believe that our long-term strategy of engagement will lead
to positive, incremental changes that will produce systemic changes in China, if
we persistently apply what I call an "outside-inside" human rights strategy.
This approach involves promoting human rights by using our multiple avenues of
influence to combine vigorous support for change from outside of China with
vigorous support for internal reform within China.

In our external diplomacy with the Chinese, all U.S. officials -- from the
President on down -- raise human rights concerns at meetings with top Chinese
officials.  We use every occasion to speak frankly and critically about
political and religious persecution, the sale of human organs, forced labor,
coercive family planning, and repression in Tibet, among other issues.  As
Secretary Albright made clear last week at a reception at the Chinese Embassy,
we seek increased Chinese respect for rights that are universally recognized and
fundamental to the freedom and dignity of every human being. We do not believe
organized peaceful political expression is a crime or a threat.

In my discussions with the Chinese, I have repeatedly emphasized the importance
of Chinese compliance with and implementation of international human rights
standards.  In October of 1998, China signed the International Covenants on
Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.  We are
urging early ratification and full implementation by the Chinese of those
important international covenants, treaties whose spirit the Chinese have
already agreed to respect.

My bureau also has statutory responsibility for preparing the annual country
report on human rights conditions in China. That report, which will be released
in late February, will evaluate China's progress in human rights in the last
year under international human rights standards.

The upcoming annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in
Geneva is another important multilateral mechanism for encouraging change in
China.  The Administration supports the Geneva process, and intends to
participate vigorously in this year's Commission activities.  Last year, our
Government did not sponsor a resolution regarding China, but made clear that we
were keeping our options open for the future. At this time, we are actively
consulting both within the Administration and with our allies to promote human
rights in China.

We support the continued access to China of groups and entities who can report
on internal conditions, including the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,
the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, human rights nongovernmental
organizations, and humanitarian organizations such as the International
Committee of the Red Cross. Last year, Secretary Albright appointed my colleague
Robert Seiple as Special Representative for International Religious Freedom. Mr.
Seiple visited China just two weeks ago to emphasize the importance we attach to
religious freedom, and to explain how the International Religious Freedom Act
will be implemented.  U.S. religious leaders have also visited China to deliver
a similar message.  Both the Special Representative and the religious leaders
stressed U.S. concern about the fate of individuals detained for the expression
of their religious beliefs as well as church registration requirements and other
mechanisms that hinder freedom of religion in China.

Finally, in promoting these human rights initiatives, we enlist the support of
our allies plus regional and global intergovernmental organizations, as well as
the support of labor unions and the business community.

At the same time as the U.S. Government employs these external channels, it also
has adopted multiple and varied initiatives to promote internal reform in China.
Broadcasts by the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia bring vital information
to Chinese citizens about developments at home and abroad. People-to-people
diplomacy is contributing significantly to change in China from the inside.
Private, non-governmental entities are contributing to facilitating change in
China with U.S. Government funding.

We have also tried to encourage and facilitate legal reform in China.  In
December, for example, American and Chinese legal experts convened a symposium
to discuss legal protection of human rights.  USIA has furthered our goals in
this area through Fulbright exchanges, judicial exchanges, and translations of
legal texts into Chinese.  The American Bar Association and private attorneys
have expressed great interest in these efforts and are eager to participate in
ongoing activities.
Yet another tool that we have used to promote increased respect for human rights
in China is the human rights dialogue that I have just concluded with the
Chinese Government. Last week's meetings marked the first human rights dialogue
between the United States and China since January 1995. Official bilateral human
rights talks between the two countries took place every year from 1991 until the
Chinese Government terminated that dialogue four years ago. At the Clinton-Jiang
Beijing summit last June, the two Presidents agreed to resume the bilateral
dialogue, reasoning that "candid dialogue is an important element for resolving
... differences." It was in that spirit that  16 United States officials met
with 12 Chinese government officials for two days last week. I have described
that dialogue in some detail in the attached press statement, issued the day
after the dialogue concluded. As you will see, official dialogue is both an
"outside" and an "inside" tool, in which we seek to promote positive change in
China's human rights situation through both pressure and persuasion.
Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by saying that as a newcomer to the government, I
appreciate that words like "dialogue" are often read as diplomatic euphemisms
for "joint speechmaking" or avoiding tough issues. Let me tell you that what
transpired over the two days last week was dialogue as any normal person would
understand it: intense and at times heated discussions in which the participants
spoke bluntly, told one another things they did not want to hear, listened
carefully, and advised one another on how they could and should do things
differently. The atmosphere was frank and the comments candid.
As my discussion of our outside-inside approach should make clear, official
dialogue on human rights is not the only tool to be employed in our effort to
promote human rights in China. It is only one of many tools which we are
applying. We also are keenly aware that the success of our dialogue will be
measured not by China's words, but by its actions in the months and years ahead.
For that reason, we will be watching China's actions closely and continuing to
press the Chinese to adhere to the international human rights standards embodied
in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- a covenant which
they themselves have both signed and announced their intention to ratify.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I now stand ready to
answer any questions you might have.
[end of document]

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