ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Good morning. I've been asked to review
our official dialogue on human rights with China. This was our
first human rights dialogue between the two countries since
January 1995. Official bilateral human rights talks between our
two countries took place every year from 1991 until the Chinese
Government terminated that dialogue four years ago. At the end of
the June Summit in Beijing, Presidents Clinton and Jiang agreed
to revive those talks, concluding that -- and I quote -- "candid
dialogue is an important element for resolving differences."
In that spirit, over ten hours of direct discussion, we discussed
a broad range of human rights issues. We forcefully raised our
concerns about the current human rights situation in China,
including the recent and disturbing and counterproductive
arrests, trials and sentencing of democratic activists for
peaceful expression of their political beliefs.
We had a significant and substantial discussion of the recent
arrests, imprisonment and sentencing of democratic activists Xu
Wenli, Qin Yongmin, Wang Youcai and several others. I told the
Chinese delegation in direct and unambiguous terms that we regard
this recent crackdown as steps in the wrong direction. We stated
our firm conviction that China must take decisive steps to
reverse this crackdown and improve the human rights situation in
As Secretary Albright noted last night in her remarks at the
Chinese Embassy, Americans do not regard organized and peaceful
political expression as a crime or a threat; rather, it is a
right that is universally recognized, protected by international
covenants, and fundamental to the freedom and dignity of every
Throughout the two days, we placed our specific concerns in the
context of China's decision last October to sign the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To quote
the Secretary, we urge China "not only to embrace it in word, but
to observe it in deed." We urged the earliest possible
ratification of that instrument, and urged China to apply
consistently and universally to all Chinese citizens the
fundamental principles embodied in those instruments. We told
them that even before China ratifies the covenant, the
international community will be looking for it to act in
accordance with a fundamental spirit and principles in that
treaty. We also told them that complying with the spirit of that
treaty was in their self-interest, because no nation can become a
fully respected member of the international political and
economic community without displaying genuine respect for
international standards and human rights norms.
Turning to particular issues, we focused on the treatment of
prisoners, prison labor issues, policies for prisoner release and
possible legal reforms that might promote large-scale
improvements in human rights. We agreed on the importance of
projects to obtain accurate information about the situation of
prisoners, such as that of American businessman, John Kamm, who
has sought clarification from the Chinese Government of the
status of prisoners. In this spirit, we also encourage the
creation of an official human rights channel between our two
governments to regularly exchange information on prisoner names,
conditions and health, to follow up on past concerns. In our
discussions of medical parole, we emphasize the right of those
released to choose whether to remain in China and raised the
cases of prisoners reported to be in poor health.
Our talks focused on international and domestic investigations
into China's Laogai conditions, prison-labor produced goods and
credible reports of the sale of human organs taken from executed
prisoners. We raised specific and credible questions from Members
of Congress and the Department of Justice that have not been
answered to date. We expressed deep concern about violations of
human rights arising from coerced implementation of China's
family planning policies.
We called on China to release not just individual prisoners but
also entire categories of prisoners, including those detained
under now repealed laws on counter-revolutionary crimes; those
detained for the peaceful exercise of their religious and
political beliefs; and those detained after the crackdown on
demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
We pressed them to reform their laws on criminal procedure,
criminal law and administrative law to meet international due
process standards. We urged them to modify their laws on state
subversion and reeducation through labor, which have led to the
unlawful detention of many individuals.
My colleague, Bob Seiple, the Secretary's Special Representative
on International Religious Freedom, participated in the dialogue
after returning Sunday night from Beijing. Bob and I noted that
current Chinese practices violate both international and Chinese
law protecting the right of religious freedom and the right to
manifest one's beliefs. We focused on China's requirements that
all religious faiths and places of worship be registered with the
government. We focused on restrictions of religious expression,
detention of individuals for peaceful expression of religious
beliefs, and raised concerns about specific religious prisoners,
including Bishop Su Zhimin, Li Qinghua and Xu Yongze, among
Yesterday we turned to Tibet. We expressed strong dissatisfaction
about the little progress that has been made in this area since
June, when President Jiang told President Clinton that the door
to dialogue and negotiation between China and the Dalai Lama
remained open. We protested restrictions on religious freedom,
mistreatment of Tibetan prisoners, the implementation of a re-
education campaign aimed at Tibetan monks and nuns, and other
policies threatening the preservation of Tibet's unique language
We encouraged them to provide access to Tibet for journalists and
human rights groups to ensure accurate information, and urged the
release of a number of individuals, including Jigme Sangpo and
Chandrel Rinpoche. We inquired about the condition of the boy who
has been designated by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, and
asked that China allow an outside observer, preferably myself, to
In sum, our exchange was full and frank, addressing candidly our
disagreement on human rights while highlighting steps we could
take to narrow such differences. There was general agreement that
more could be done by both of our countries to work cooperatively
to advance women's rights against violence and discrimination.
We discussed how our governments could better cooperate with UN
human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. We pressed
repeatedly for the principle of mutual transparency in exposing
our human rights practices to one another. In that spirit, we
invited the Chinese delegation to visit the Justice Department to
discuss human rights protections with officials of the Civil
Rights Division and the Bureau of Prisons, to attend a criminal
trial here in the U.S. Federal Court, and to visit a federal
prison in Cumberland, Maryland.
These visits were not just show-and-tell; they encourage a policy
of opening our government institutions to one another and
demonstrate that societal stability and vigorous law enforcement
and penal policies can be maintained alongside vigorous
protection of the basic human rights of defendants and inmates.
At the end of the dialogue, the US side made a number of
proposals for both official and non-official exchanges to deepen
this human rights channel, which the Chinese side said it would
consider. Both sides agreed to hold the next official human
rights dialogue in China in the second half of the year.
Let me conclude by saying, as a newcomer to the government, I
appreciate that words like "dialogue" are often read as
diplomatic code for joint speech-making. I will say that what
transpired these last two days in over ten hours of direct
discussion was dialogue as normal people understand it -- intense
discussions in which participants speak bluntly, tell one another
things they do not want to hear and advise them on how they could
and should do things differently. The atmosphere was frank, the
comments were candid.
The success of our dialogue will be measured by China's actions,
not just its words; and we'll be watching those actions closely
in the weeks ahead. At this point, I'm happy to take your
QUESTION: Could you characterize the Chinese response to the
issues that you raised? Also, was this a one-way street, or did
China raise issues concerning alleged abuses in the United
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Taking the second part, they did raise
issues, but not in the kind of detail, or with the kind of
specifics that we did.
QUESTION: Could you name them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: They raised concerns about our prison
conditions, the racial composition of our prisons. They raised
concerns about the administration of the death penalty in our
country, and a number of other points. We conceded that though
our country is not perfect, we showed them means by which we have
been working on these matters.
They raised, for example, the style in which we have ratified our
international human rights conventions, and administered them
through the US Government, and we demonstrated to them how we are
going about doing that. We went into some detail about the US
executive order, which President Clinton signed on December 10,
that would implement human rights treaties throughout the US
QUESTION: You talked about things -- telling each other things
you didn't want to hear. Is there anything beyond what you told
George that you didn't want to hear from the Chinese?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I didn't want to hear their claims
that the facts were wrong. We have a lot of facts on our side
that we put forward to them. They came back with contrary facts.
Some of them I do not believe to be correct. However, what I did
say to them was: We welcomed their explanations and the detail of
information that they were providing to us; and that, indeed, we
welcomed this kind of information on all the cases on which we
were seeking answers. Our view is that transparency is good. The
more information they give us, and the more justifications they
give us, the better.
Now, I should also say that we did not simply talk about facts,
we talked about standards. For example, with regard to the recent
arrests, their claim is that the people who are arrested are
guilty of subverting the government. They made various
allegations and provided information to support that argument.
We said that under international standards, whether someone is
subverting the government requires some sort of connection
between what they do and the chance that the government will
actually be subverted. So what we are trying to do is to direct
their attention to the very treaty that they had signed to
suggest that it had an international standard for evaluating
their own conduct, and suggest their conduct had failed to meet
QUESTION: The Chinese have signed several covenants -- the
covenant on torture, on -- (inaudible) -- economic rights --
and they feel completely free to turn around and violate all the
principles of it. Did you get a sense from them that they
understand the importance of these covenants, or is it something
that they do just because it's timely for them to get something
else; it's a means to some other end which has nothing to do with
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, as you know, I'm an international
law professor on leave, and I take every opportunity to clarify
the meaning of these treaties and the obligations that they
I think we made it very clear, that if they thought that signing
these treaties was a paper act and that there are no expectations
that arise from those treaties, that that's a misperception. We
made it clear that what was at stake was not just pure issues of
law, but also a reputation for living up to treaties that would
extend into other arenas in which they would like to make
international treaty commitments. We made it clear that, as we
evaluate our own conduct under these treaties, we'll be
evaluating their conduct under these treaties.
I think an important thing, which I'd like to emphasize and which
is raised by your question, is that most of the discussions that
are had about human rights between high officials of our two
governments are necessarily brief, intermittent. A few issues can
be raised and discussed, but not at the depth and range as we
were able to do it.
Not only that, we had officials participating from many different
agencies -- not just the State Department, but also the NSC, the
Justice Department. We laid out a unified position on how the
recent steps have imposed obstacles to our bilateral
relationship. I don't think that it had been made so vividly
clear to them, how much the different pieces of the American
Government, as well as public opinion here, is joined in a belief
that the recent actions are wrong and ought to be reversed. The
message that was sent, I think, was unified and unmistakable.
QUESTION: Did you explain to the Chinese side how their latest
crackdown is putting pressure on the US Government to get back to
perhaps re-launching the Geneva resolution that it dropped last
year? If so, if that subject did come up, what did they say about
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, we talked in two terms. We talked
about how their actions are being perceived by parts of this
country over which we don't have a lot of control -- the media,
Congress and others. We also talked about how it is being
perceived by the US Government, and we said it was the same
perception: These actions are wrong and ought to be fixed.
We said that we were considering a range of responses, and that
one of them, which is currently under discussion, is Geneva.
QUESTION: Did they have any response to that possibility?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I think they noted it, took it seriously
and are mulling over a response right now.
QUESTION: Did you provide the Chinese with a list of names of
prisoners that the United States wants to see released? And can
you give us a sense as to how long that list is; how many names
are on it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Yes, we gave them a list. The exact
count I don't know. We gave them a whole range of them in the
course of the official discussions, and then also presented a
number of other cases. These are cases that include not just the
most highly publicized cases, but others on which we've received
I should say that with regard to a number of the individual
cases, they sought to present clarifying information. One of the
values of the dialogue is to have a channel for information. The
dialogue, I think, not just serves to deliver messages and
register complaints, but it also allows us to follow up on past
messages that have been delivered, to clarify misunderstandings,
to propose joint initiatives, and build on what I think are
genuine desires within the Chinese Government to undertake
various kinds of legal reforms.
QUESTION: In addition to the potential of re-launching the Geneva
resolution, were there any other examples that you are able to
cite in which the US Government said, either you show us tangible
progress on x, y and z, or we will do such and such?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, one thing is, I'm planning to go
there. I asked for permission to see the Panchen Lama. I asked to
go visit the prisons that they asked for. I asked to bring others
with me. I should say that this was an aspect -- at least the
aspect of my going to Beijing to continue the dialogue with which
I think that this is the issue of transparency which is -- as
long as this dialogue proceeds and they know the same concerns
are going to be raised again regularly, and at this level of
depth, they have to make a response.
QUESTION: When you say you're going to ask to see the Panchen
Lama, are you talking about the Panchen Lama that the Chinese
Government has recognized or the one that they refuse to
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: The one they refuse to recognize.
QUESTION: Mr. Koh, a predecessor of yours went to Beijing and
raised human rights issues, and the result was a lot of bad news
for human rights activists in China. Do you have any indication
that raising all of these issues is not going to cause setbacks
to human rights activists in China, as have previous efforts by
people in your position?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I think human rights activists in
China, including some of those who were affected or involved in
the incident you describe, are all pressing for our more active
and aggressive participation on their behalf. I don't think
there's any dissent about that.
QUESTION: But do you see any evidence that, on the basis of these
talks, the Chinese are going to act positively on any of the
things that you've raised?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I think that the talks are
designed to start a process going again which had been stalled.
The point is to make it clear that we are monitoring what they
are doing. We're examining their justifications; we're pressing
them for change; and we're going to be following up.
QUESTION: Right, but was there any indication that they're
listening, that they're going to do something? Did they promise
anything? Did you get any concessions at all?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: We put proposals on the table and
they're looking at them. The dialogue ended yesterday and, as I
said, the success will be measured by how the results play out
over the course of the next couple of weeks.
I think that the proposals that we tabled, they simply took back.
Others in their government are going to have to help them
formulate their response.
QUESTION: What did they tell you about the Panchen Lama, and how
did they react when you asked their permission to visit him?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: They said that he was fine -- we know
where he is and he's fine. I said, well, then -- and they said,
we assume you trust us on this point. Then later when they said
that I could come to Beijing, I said, and I'd like to see this
boy. Then they said, that's not necessary; and I said, well,
don't you trust me -- having invited me back, I'd like to take
this opportunity to verify it. So this will be one of the matters
that will continue to be under discussion.
QUESTION: Do you have fears for his condition? How old is he now?
What is your understanding of where he's being held and under
what conditions he's being held in?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I don't have a lot of information on
that. He disappeared a few years ago. He's still a very young
QUESTION: And do you have any idea where they're holding him?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I don't have that information right now.
QUESTION: Is it a prison; do you think it's a prison? Do you
think it's a tenement, house arrest?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I'm not going to speculate. That's why I
wanted to actually meet with the boy.
QUESTION: And they did agree to let you come back?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: They agreed to let me come. They agreed
that I could come and continue the dialogue; and my intention is
to not just continue the dialogue, but to follow up on verifying
various of the pieces of information that they provided.
QUESTION: When will you be going?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: The second half of 1999.
QUESTION: The second half of '99? And, sorry, just one more, they
did not agree to let you see the Panchen Lama?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Let me say this: The one thing on which
they agreed was that the dialogue would resume, and that I would
head it, and that it would be in Beijing. Then the other pieces
of that, we have on the table. I should also say that until I get
on the plane, it's not going to be -- there's no guarantee. But
we agreed in principle that it should proceed.
QUESTION: Are human rights going to be part of the package deal
or expectations for the Chinese around the time for the Chinese
Prime Minister Zhu Rongji's visit in April? Also -- (inaudible)
-- talked about you'd like to have NGOs to go on your delegation
when you go over. How are you going to win the NGOs back to your
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, on the first point I prefer to say
that human rights are integral to the bilateral relationship.
That was a point that was made by every US Government official
that appeared and spoke directly to the Chinese. It's not a
marginal concern of ours in the bilateral relation; it's central
to the bilateral relationship. It affects the entire atmosphere
of the bilateral relationship. I think you heard Secretary
Albright's statement last night, which also made that
With regard to the second question, which I've forgotten at the
QUESTION: Can you elaborate on the NGOs dialogue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: We have proposed that NGOs accompany me
to Beijing in the second half of 1999, both for participating in
discussions with government officials, and also in pursuing
issues of rule of law and human rights. That's one of the
proposals that's on the table.
QUESTION: Did the Chinese argue during this dialogue that some of
the principles which the United States holds just don't apply to
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I think there's an interesting
advance. They did not simply assert that everything was an
internal affair, as has been done in the past. Our response to
that, which they appeared to accept, is that by committing
themselves to these international instruments, they accept
international scrutiny on human rights standards. That was one
reason that we placed so much of the discussion in the context of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
An argument which they asserted, but not vigorously, was that
Asian values somehow are different. In fact, they spoke about the
universality of human rights. I think, I personally asserted that
as an Asian myself -- or an Asian-American -- I never saw any
inconsistency between Asian values and universal human rights.
So I think that this is a part of what Secretary Albright said
last night, when she said that 20 years ago there was nothing to
discuss on human rights; they were like two ships passing in the
night. Here, we agreed upon a number of basic principles, and
then proceeded to discuss areas of difference. That was the basis
on which the discussion proceeded.
QUESTION: Picking up on what the Secretary said last night, I
don't know if either last night or today you spoke with some of
the Chinese officials that you had been in talks with. Can you
give us any sense of their reaction, if any, to her remarks last
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I have actually not talked to any of
them since the speech, although I was there. I will be seeing
some of them again today.
I don't think they have any basis to be surprised by what they
heard, given that the message that was given there was exactly
the same message that we were delivering. They had just gotten
ten hours of that message. So I think to hear it from the
Secretary may have reinforced the message, but it wasn't a new
QUESTION: Did you discuss the case of Hua Di, the research fellow
from Stanford University?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I didn't hear that.
QUESTION: The case of Hua Di.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: We'll get back to you on that one.
QUESTION: Talking about your trip to Beijing, when Mary Robinson
was there, one of the big problems that she had was access. She
had a long list of things that she wanted to do, places that she
wanted to go to; and the Chinese pretty much picked and chose
where she was given access to. Did you have any conversation with
them about getting access to what you want to see when you're in
China? They're big on symbol, very little on delivering substance
in terms of that. So did you have any conversation about that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I think they'll obviously be
negotiating the context of the trip. I just think -- and this is
based on my experience before I became a government official --
that the more that outsiders come in, the more that transparency
is the principle, the more access people get.
I just came back from Kosovo, where we asked to see a detention
facility and a hospital, and asked to speak privately to
prisoners, patients and doctors and were allowed to do so. Before
I went, somebody said to me, that's never going to happen. I
think, as they say, a lot of life is just showing up. I think
Mary Robinson started the ball rolling on this, and we're going
to continue it rolling to the extent that we can.
QUESTION: Are you willing to -- or have you told the Chinese that
unless you are given access to, for instance, the Panchen Lama,
unless you're able to visit prisons, unless you're able to do the
other things on your list, that you won't go?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I think I've answered that -- the
dialogue doesn't resume until I get on the plane.
QUESTION: I'm sorry --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: The dialogue doesn't resume until I get
on the plane, and I'm not going to go there to have a dialogue
which I consider to be meaningless, or to go there and not have a
meaningful discussion of the issues that we began to discuss
I think we also set a precedent in this visit for openness. We
showed them our courts; we showed them our prisons; we showed
them how we do prisons. We were honest and open about things that
we think we don't do well. That was in part, I think, to make it
clear that institutions that value human rights, even if not
perfect, have nothing to hide by letting outsiders view the
I should say, too, that they were genuinely interested. They were
genuinely interested in the trip to the courts; they were
genuinely interested in going to the prisons. The issue which I
think was probably most common between us was, how do you
administer a system of law in a very big country; just how do you
do it as a matter of logistics? I think on that, there's a lot of
possibility for joint discussion.
QUESTION: Did they raise this Asian rights issue with you -- you
mentioned it briefly, I just wanted to be more clear. Did they
say, we have a different system; our system works for us and it's
different from your system? Communal consensus instead of
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I think I've answered that question.
Without having to get into the details, the point was made and
the point in response was, Asian values are not inconsistent with
universal values and I'm living proof of that.
QUESTION: No, but did they raise the issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: I think I've said enough on that.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could say whether you discussed
specifically the relative merits of having an opposition party in
China and what their reaction might have been if you did discuss
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, we told them that a country of
their size and power has nothing to fear from the lawful and non-
violent dissent of those who would attempt to engage in lawful
political organizing. We discussed the value of vibrant, peaceful
expression. So I think that we made our point on this pretty
QUESTION: Did you get any sense that they were receptive to the
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I guess the question of
receptivity is over a range of encounters. I spent, really, the
last two days with them from morning until night. There were ten
hours of formal discussions; there were about ten hours of
visitations; and then there were working meals and other events.
I think I saw a receptivity in various corners at various points
in that period.
QUESTION: Just wondering about -- are you satisfied with the
content of talks or are you more satisfied about resuming a
dialogue with the Chinese?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Say it again, I'm not sure I --
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the content of the talks, or are
you satisfied with the fact that you resumed the dialogue with
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, I understand that the fact that
this dialogue proceeded was not entirely uncontroversial,
particularly from the point of view of the media. So the question
in my own mind is, did the talks permit the kind of messages to
be delivered, the kind of information to be received, that we
desired? From that perspective, I would say very much so.
We delivered our messages in very unambiguous terms. We requested
information; we requested follow-up; we pressed for action. We
made quite clear what action we were requesting, and we made
proposals to deepen this channel and source of discussion. As I
said in my remarks, we'll see; we'll see what the response is.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how your dialogue is proceeding in
relation to the rule of law talks that we heard so much about
six, eight months ago when the Secretary and the President went?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: The rule of law talks -- or actually the
rule of law basket of the Beijing Summit, led to the creation of
a number of symposia that would occur to talk about a number of
issues. The first one was about the legal protection of human
rights. It included not just individual issues, but also
structural issues. That was held at Airlie House with both
governmental and non-governmental officials from both sides back
I also participated in those talks, and I must say that the
openness and frankness of those discussions and the degree of
joint questing to try to address some of these questions about
rule of law at the structural level was impressive.
I think it's fair to say that China wants to move forward. It
wants to reform its legal system. It has had reform of its
criminal procedures; it's had reform of its criminal law; it's
had reform of its administrative law. Problems remain, and
they're interested in knowing how to go about doing it. A lot of
the discussions focused on that question.
So, I think that -- and this is the larger point -- a real change
and real improvement of human rights in China will come through
systemic reform. In this country, we did not have real protection
of criminal rights -- criminal defendants' rights -- until after
the due process revolution of the '60s. That is something which
affects everybody who is brought as a defendant before a court,
not just a few highly publicized cases. So, I think that we want
to address this question, not just from the perspective of
individual prominent names, although we have tremendous concern
about these names and want to do everything we can for these
individuals. I think the broader question is, how does China
address issues in which it knows it has a problem?
I would just mention two particular areas that we focused on,
again, which I mentioned in my remarks. One is counter-
revolutionary crimes. They've repealed the law of counter-
revolutionary crimes, and there are large numbers of people being
held for those crimes. We've received, from a variety of sources,
a sense that, on a case-by-case basis, they might be willing to
review those sentences. The question is, how ought that to be
done? If this were to be carried out, it would lead to a very
sweeping result, we would hope.
Another area is with regard to reeducation through labor. Here,
the issue is whether somebody can be sent to a labor camp for
three years and reeducated. One of the issues under their legal
system is, is this criminal or is it civil? Now, I don't think we
should simply say that this is some sort of ruse on their part to
justify a system which is inherently repressive. In our own
country, we had a juvenile detention system which claimed to
rehabilitate children, that didn't give them much in the way of
due process. That was challenged before the courts and was
finally revised and recognized to be a frank deprivation of
liberty. Once that revelation came about, juveniles who were sent
into those facilities got due process rights. So we had a lot of
discussion about the commonalties between our situation and their
QUESTION: There are more talks today, correct?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: No, today they're going to visit a
QUESTION: Okay, so no more dialogue with them? Nothing else is on
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: No more dialogue.
QUESTION: Another prison?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: No, on the first day we went to see the
Justice Department. We talked to the Civil Rights Division
officials about how they enforce our civil rights laws. The
message, I think, of that meeting was that it's possible to have
aggressive and vigorous criminal and civil enforcement of the
laws, along with aggressive rooting out of civil rights
violations. Indeed, the message the civil rights officials
delivered was: If state and local officials are abusing civil
rights, we pursue it -- the government pursues it.
We also talked to prison officials who talked about the structure
and running of our prisons, and what they're seeing today is the
large picture as it plays out in an actual prison.
QUESTION: I thought that you had said that you're going to the
visit to the prison just a few minutes ago. Anyway, one of the
rationale for engaging China is that doing so would bring human
rights reform. Would it be more likely to bring human rights
reform? That was one of the big arguments for President Clinton
going to Beijing and for him entertaining President Jiang here.
Can you point to any tangible progress on the human rights front
since those reciprocal visits?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Let me put it in these terms. One is the
point of having dialogue as one of the tools for dealing with
China's human rights situation. What I would say is this: There
are a range of tools that are possible; and what I said in my
confirmation hearing for this position is, that we would apply an
inside/outside approach. Namely, we would use mechanisms of
pressure and we would use mechanisms of persuasion.
As someone who studied what makes individuals, countries, obey
the law, it's usually not just sanctions, frankly, because
countries of equal power often don't respond to sanctions from
other countries of equal power in the way you might like. You
have to use an inside and outside approach.
Now, we've used a whole range of tools, and we're going to
continue to use them. One of the tools here is dialogue, which is
telling them what we think of their practices, telling them what
standards we measured against, urging them to make changes,
finding areas in which we think we have common interests in
promoting legal reform; and then to the extent to which they're
genuinely seeking help, helping them. I think we're talking about
a long process of reforming a country which is quite different
from ours, and making it view human rights and its role in its
society in a different way.
QUESTION: To follow up on Sid's question, and continuing with
that analogy of the tools, what other tools outside the tool of
dialogue have you or the US Government been using to put pressure
and to encourage China to reform human rights? Sort of as a
sidebar to that question, is there any example of progress that
the US Government can point to -- any single example of progress
in human rights that we have seen since President Clinton's trip?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY KOH: Well, of course there are examples of
progress; the question is how fast is that progress. Releases of
prisoners is progress. Responses and openness are progress. But
we have to keep pressing. We're in this for the long haul. I
think that there is a tendency here to think that our policy can
reap all the results that we want overnight.
I think there's some fine line to be drawn between trying to get
quick results and trying to get long-term, systematic results. My
own view is a process by which we're pushing as much as we can,
delivering the same message over and over, using tools of
persuasion to promote change, is the only way to go. I mean, just
think about the way that you deal with someone with whom you
fundamentally disagree and try to get them to change their
conduct. Do you simply say, if you don't do this, we'll threaten
you with this? That may work in some senses, or it may work when
they're near you; but the fact of the matter is, it does not
fundamentally change the way they do their conduct. It has to be
a concerted effort, not just by us but by other law-abiding and
human rights-loving countries, to try to change an internal
approach. That requires, I think, a combination of pressure and
persuasion. That requires many tools, and we've just exercised
one of them. We'll see the results as they come along.
QUESTION: Thank you.
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