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Week of February 22, 2002

Week of February 22, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Bush Upbeat on China Relations as Summit Begins

SUMMARY: (2/21) - U.S. President George W. Bush praised China for its "strong support" of the American-led war on terrorism on the first day of his two-day visit to China February 21. After an initial meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, there were no significant deals announced, including on non-proliferation of weapons technologies. However, at a joint news conference with Jiang after the discussions, Bush did not rule out such an agreement being reached. He called on China to "strongly oppose the proliferation of missiles and other deadly technologies."

At the news conference, Bush stated that terrorism is a threat to both China and the United States and that he welcomed "Chinese cooperation in our war against terror." "I encourage China to continue to be a force for peace among its neighbors," he added. For his part, Jiang hinted that U.S.-China intelligence cooperation might increase. He also accepted an invitation from Bush to visit the United States in October.

Prior to going to China, Bush said he would raise human and religious rights issues with the Chinese leadership. Religious scholars estimate China has 50 million underground Protestants and 10 million Catholics. China only allows state-approved religions to worship. The Vatican recently complained about 33 bishops and priests it said were being held or watched and kept from worshipping freely.

The talks between Jiang and Bush were private, but it was widely expected that weapons proliferation, human rights and Taiwan would be discussed. China has informed diplomats it is willing to curb weapons technology exports to "rogue" states, such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea, the three countries Bush has labeled an "axis of evil." China has also said it will work on improving human rights conditions.


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U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Chinese Officials Say China to Make Concessions to United States

SUMMARY: (2/20) - Among the many conciliatory gestures China is expected to make to the United States in the coming weeks is the release of prominent political prisoners. Chinese officials have told diplomats that China would release dissidents and make it easier for underground churches to register with the government.

"The government has indicated to me and to the State Department that they are willing to release other prisoners, including very important ones," reported John Kamm, a human rights activist. "We're just working on the details." Kamm helped gain the release of Tibetan scholar Ngawang Choephel last month after Choephel spent six years in prison. Last month, U.S. Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt, Jr. named five political prisoners in a speech. One of them, Li Guangqiang, a Hong Kong businessman who smuggled Bibles into the mainland, was released earlier this month. The United States is also trying to obtain the release of Rebiya Kadeer, a Xinjiang businesswoman apparently held as part of a crackdown on ethnic Uighurs vying for autonomy.

The Indian-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy announced February 20 that China had released Chadrel Rinpoche, a Tibetan monk, from Chuandong prison. Rinpoche was given a six-year prison sentence in May 1997 for attempting to split China and leaking state secrets. The Center said the reason for his sentence was that he had been in contact with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibetans in exile in India. Rinpoche, 62, is now under house arrest, the Center reported.

China is also expected to take measures to halt proliferation of technology related to weapons of mass destruction, what American officials are saying is a "make-or-break issue." In November 2000, the United States and China reached an agreement whereby China would halt export of missiles and related technologies and develop a plan to stop future exports. The United States agreed to let U.S. companies launch satellites in China. However, the agreement broke down, as China believed the agreement did not pertain to weapons sales already underway, while the United States said it did.

One senior Asian diplomat commented that China has come to believe that "a good, solid relationship with the United States is more important than these sales." A Chinese official said his country is ready to compromise on the issue. He stated China could quickly publish a list of illegal exports and measures to enforce the ban if the United States would lift sanctions barring U.S. satellites from being launched on Chinese rockets.

In addition to releasing dissidents and taking steps to thwart proliferation, China is expected to approve an FBI liaison office in Beijing, a $10 million U.S. effort to support the rule of law in China, and joint U.S.-China initiatives on AIDS prevention and the environment. China also consented to airing live unedited broadcasts of Bush's joint press conference with Jiang February 21 and of his speech at Tsinghua University on February 22.

China also reportedly toed a tough line with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz when he visited China January 28, informing him that if Iraq does not abide by United Nations resolutions, China could not do much to defend Iraq's sovereignty. "Aziz came to China to get Chinese support," a diplomat who followed Aziz's visit said. "He got zilch." Diplomats reported that China will also take a more aggressive stance toward North Korea and Iran, the two nations who along with Iraq were branded an "axis of evil" by Bush.


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DOMESTIC: Sentencing Postponed for Students on Falun Gong Charges

SUMMARY:   (2/20) - China has postponed sentencing six students from prestigious Tsinghua University for posting articles about Falun Gong on the Internet. The six were convicted of "using evil cult to undermine the enforcement of law," the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said. They could each get 15 years in prison. The six were found guilty in the district court in the southern city of Zhuhai after being charged last September. They were originally arrested in November 2000 for posting articles critical of the government's crackdown on Falun Gong, the Centre reported. Court officials were unavailable for comment.

According to the Centre, the six are among more than 300 Tsinghua students and faculty who have been arrested for Falun Gong-related activities. In December, China jailed six other academics, including four Tsinghua graduate students, for downloading information about Falun Gong and sending it out over the Internet. The Centre reported that Beijing's Number One Intermediate Court gave those six individuals jail sentences of three to 12 years.

The Centre said sentencing of the six students will probably occur in early March. U.S. President George W. Bush was scheduled to give a speech at Tsinghua February 21 to be carried live by Chinese state television. The United States has long been critical of the Chinese government's human rights record and has expressed concern over the crackdown on Falun Gong.

China claims Falun Gong is an "evil cult" which has led to the deaths of at least 1,800 people from suicide or refusal to accept needed medical treatment. Falun Gong's U.S.-based information center says more than 1,600 Falun Gong members have been killed while in state custody.


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INTERNATIONAL: Oxford University Asks China to Release Former Student

SUMMARY: (2/20) - Britain's Oxford University has sent an open letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin describing its serious concern with a 13-year jail sentence a former Oxford student received January 10. Dr. Xu Zerong, 48, was arrested in June 2000. A court in Shenzhen gave him 10 years for obtaining and copying confidential documents and distributing them outside China. He received three more years for "illegal publication" of books and periodicals, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Xu was a student of international relations at St. Antony's College at Oxford from 1989 to 1999. A letter on his behalf organized by St. Antony's was signed by 340 academics, public servants, businessmen and journalists from across the world with an interest in China, the college said.

"The concern about the case relates particularly to the length of time that Dr Xu washeld in detention before trial, his isolation during incarceration, the severity of the
sentence imposed on him, and the issues of academic freedom involved," St. Antony's said. It added that as it appeared the national security issues involved concerned the Korean War, the college could not "accept that analysis of the military policies of any country half a century ago constitutes the leaking of state secrets …." It asked that individuals studying such topics in China be allowed to do so without fear of punishment.

Meanwhile, the wife of dissident Jiang Qisheng has asked President Bush to raise Jiang's case with the Chinese government. Jiang was vice president of a group of student leaders who met with Chinese officials during the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989. He was jailed for a year and a half following Tiananmen and for four more years in 1999 for subversion. Similarly, the wife of democracy activist Xu Wenli has asked that Xu be given medical parole. He has spent most of the last two decades in prison and is said to be very sick. Other supporters of individuals in Chinese jails also appealed for Bush's intervention.

And the U.S. government has submitted a formal protest to China regarding the arrest of American practitioners of Falun Gong last week. The Americans said they were physically abused by Chinese police after being arrested for demonstrating in Beijing.


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

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