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Week of November 3, 2000

Week of March 2, 2001

The U.S. and China This Week

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INTERNATIONAL: Chinese Dissidents Ask Robinson to Raise Case of Democracy Activist

SUMMARY: The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy put out an open letter asking U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to try to persuade the Chinese government to give necessary medical treatment to a jailed dissident. Xu Wenli, who has Hepatitis B and other ailments, was given a 13-year sentence in 1998 for attempting to form a pro-democratic political party. Robinson met with Chinese government officials February 26. She was in Beijing to oversee a two-day seminar on the state’s power to send individuals to labor camps with no trial.

The letter, signed by 35 dissidents and distributed to foreign correspondents, said Xu has lost all of his teeth and his hair has become white. The authorities have only given him insufficient medical treatment, the letter said; it asked that Xu be freed on medical parole, as in the past were dissidents Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan (both of them, however, were later re-arrested).

The letter was signed by Ren Wending, who participated in the 1979 Democracy Wall movement and the 1989 Tiananmen protests, and He Depu, a member of the now moribund China Democracy Party that Xu helped organize.

The seminar hosted by Robinson is the first in a series mandated by an agreement reached between the government and Robinson last November. The seminars will deal with China’s courts, police and labor camp system.

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INTERNATIONAL: Olympic Inspectors Impressed by Beijing

SUMMARY: If remarks by the head of International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection team are any indication, the team’s recent visit to Beijing was a success. Heim Verbruggen said Beijing had clearly shown its capability to be a host city for the 2008 Olympics. “We have tried to feel what is the support of the population for the bid,?Verbruggen said. “I think we have found in general great enthusiasm.?

The 17-member inspection team visited Beijing for four days. Places it toured included sports stadiums, traffic control centers and a sewage treatment plant. “I think we’ve got a fairly good picture of the city,?Verbruggen said. However, BBC Beijing correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes maintained that Verbruggen was hesitant to be drawn on the environmental conditions of Beijing, which has pollution and traffic congestion problems.

Several individuals have been sentenced for asking the IOC to exert influence on Beijing to release political prisoners. Verbruggen maintained that the IOC does not hold positions on political subjects.

The decision on what country will host the 2008 Olympics is scheduled to be made in July. The Chinese government says it plans to spend $12 billion over the next seven years to clean up Beijing. 

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INTERNATIONAL: U.N. Human Rights Chief Calls on China to End Labor Camps

SUMMARY: While in Beijing to oversee a two-day seminar on the state’s power to send individuals to labor camps with no trial, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called on China to scrap its labor camp system. “The concept of using forced labor as a punishment is against the accepted international human rights principles embodied in many international instruments,?Robinson said to Chinese officials and legal experts. She asked China to undergo “a serious review leading to the abolition of the practice.?

Sophia Woodman, research director for the New York-based group Human Rights in China, said her organization is “very happy that Mary Robinson made this strong statement at the workshop and is standing with the people inside China who are looking at this issue.?Last week, Human Rights in China released a report claiming 260,000 Chinese are in labor camps, 60 percent of them for “disturbing public order.?According to Falun Gong spokespeople, 5,000 of their members are in labor camps.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Guangya spoke to the seminar, maintaining that “No country’s human rights record is 100 percent perfect.?He also said that “We hope not only to work hard to improve our record, but to learn from the experience of other countries.?amp;nbsp;

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          U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Chinese Government to Investigate Iraq Allegations

SUMMARY: The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said it will investigate whether a Chinese company sold fiber-optic cables to Iraq and helped with their installation. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell asked Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi for an explanation regarding the alleged sale, which America says aided Iraq’s air defenses by allowing it to augment links between antiaircraft missiles and the radar systems that guide them. The cables would be a violation of U.N. sanctions against Iraq given that they have a military application. On February 16, the U.S. and Britain conducted air strikes against Iraq’s air defenses, citing their improvement as one reason.

Originally, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao denied America’s allegations about the fiber-optic cables. But at a news conference February 27, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said that “Regarding the situation raised by the U.S. side, China can conduct an investigation.?

An Asian and a Western diplomat said the firm that the U.S. has complained about is Huawei Technologies Company, a secretive private company based in Shenzhen that has been given communications contracts from the People’s Liberation Army. According to telecommunications experts and diplomats, if Huawei had exported the fiber-optic cables to Iraq it would not necessarily mean the Chinese government was involved.

A Chinese security analyst maintained that China wants to rectify the situation with Iraq to make sure America does not use it as an excuse to sell Taiwan an Aegis early-warning radar system, which would allow Taiwan greater capability to detect Chinese air and missile attacks.

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INTERNATIONAL: China Ratifies U.N. Human Rights Treaty

SUMMARY: China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights February 28 but said it will address a provision for independent trade unions “in line with relevant provisions?of its constitution and labor laws. Currently Chinese workers may only belong to one Communist Party-run union. Xiao Qiang, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights in China, said the ratification of the treaty will better allow court challenges of the government by Chinese citizens and help scholars involved in attempting to reform China’s legal system.

Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, called on China to free incarcerated labor organizers and to allow the International Labor Organization to help China reform its labor laws so that they comply with international norms, as the ILO has offered.

China signed the rights pact in 1997. Following from ratification, China must release periodic compliance reports, which will allow for international scrutiny of its policies.

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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