Bush sends parting shot on human rights

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 1993, 12:00am

THE outgoing Bush administration has painted a sharply critical picture of continued widespread repression in China in a report that accuses Beijing of having done little in the past year to improve the country's human rights.

Released on Mr George Bush's last day in office, the report said China's human rights practices had ''remained repressive, falling far short of internationally accepted norms''.

The assistant secretary of state for human rights, Ms Patricia Diaz Dennis, said that in ''terms of human rights it is still repressive in China''.

The report, issued annually by the State Department on human rights around the world, said ''hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned or detained'' in China.

Its section on Hongkong describes the territory as ''a free society with legally-protected rights, but without a broad democratic base''.

''While Hongkong is a free society, with most individual freedoms and rights protected by law and custom, citizens of the territory do not have the right to change their government,'' the report said.

The Bush administration's parting attack on China's human rights record came as President Mr Bill Clinton named a harsh critic of Beijing, Mr Winston Lord, as his principal Asia policy adviser in the State Department.

Mr Lord, a former ambassador to China under Mr Bush, has launched numerous attacks on Beijing's human rights behaviour while at the same time accusing Mr Bush of being too lenient with the Chinese.

The State Department report said China had still not fully accounted for the ''thousands'' of people arrested or detained in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy uprising.

But it added: ''Most persons held in connection with the events of 1989, however, were no longer under detention by 1992.'' This claim was heatedly challenged by Mr Mike Jendrzejczyk, of the human rights group Asia Watch.

Mr Jendrzejczyk insisted there was no evidence to support the report's claim that most of the Tiananmen prisoners had now been released.

But he praised the report as ''hard-hitting'' in its list of Beijing abuses ranging from human and political rights to religious freedom and the penal system.

The report said: ''The security forces have been responsible for human rights abuses, including torture and arbitrary arrest and detention.'' It added that human rights abuses persisted in Tibet and some other areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities.

The report claims: Torture and degrading treatment of detained and imprisoned people persists; Freedom of speech and self-expression remains severely restricted; and Conditions in all types of Chinese penal institutions are harsh and frequently degrading.

While China ''routinely'' allowed foreign travel or emigration for most citizens, it nevertheless obstructed such travel by some dissidents on political or other grounds, it added.

While condemning China's overall human rights performance, the report said minor progress had been made in certain areas in the past year.

''A number of prominent dissidents have been allowed to leave China,'' it said.

''In the cultural sphere there were indications that the rigid ideological controls reimposed after June 1989 were beginning to ease.'' The report said China no longer dismissed all discussion of human rights as interference in the country's internal affairs, although it remained reluctant to accept criticism.

According to the report, Hongkong's functional constituencies violated the concept of one person-one vote because voters in these constituencies could also vote in geographic constituencies.

The functional constituencies also disproportionately represented the economic and professional elites.

The report said discrimination and violence against women was a significant problem. It said there were only limited laws to protect the rights of battered women, and women faced discrimination in the areas of employment, pay, welfare and promotion.

It also noted that the Hongkong Government had ''refused to consider'' freedom of information legislation.

The Macau chapter claims self-censorship is growing in the enclave's press.

''Most of Macau's newspapers are pro-China publications that do not give equal coverage to liberal and pro-democracy forces,'' the report said. But the enclave's citizens were said to enjoy broad freedoms.