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China's Tibet crackdown highlights US rights policy flaws

March 17, 2008

WASHINGTON March 16, 2008 (AFP) — China's crackdown on Tibetan protests
has dealt a major embarassment to US President George W. Bush's
administration, which removed the Asian giant from a human rights
blacklist just three days before the bloody repression, experts say.

Rights groups and some lawmakers were dismayed by the State Department's
decision last Tuesday to drop China from its list of the world's worst
human rights violators despite what they called Beijing's worsening
rights record even as it prepared to host the Olympic Games in August.

As Chinese troops moved Friday to quell the worst protests in 20 years
against Beijing's rule in Tibet amid claims of heavy casualties, Bush
could come under pressure to restore human rights as top priority in
bilateral relations, experts said.

"Clearly the Bush administration has been very, very leery of dealing
with the Chinese on the human rights issue," said John Tkacik, a former
China expert in the State Department, who feels Washington's Asia policy
has been skewed by heavy US reliance on China to end North Korea's
nuclear weapons drive.

"So if your only priority is North Korean nuclear weapons, you
subordinate everything else to what China wants and that's unfortunately
what seems to have happened here," he said.

The Tibet crackdown is a "big embarrassment for Bush, coming just a
couple of days after the State Department decision to delist China as a
top human rights violator," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International's
Washington-based Asia-Pacific advocacy director.

In a move seen by some as kowtowing to China, Bush has pledged to attend
the Olympic Games and effectively endorsed Beijing's contention that the
Olympics have nothing to do with politics.

Frank Wolf, a senior House Republican lawmaker and human rights
crusader, has asked Bush not to attend the Beijing games, comparing it
to the Berlin 1936 Olympics at the time of the rise of Adolf Hitler and
the Nazi Party in Germany.

Bush's presence would be akin to President Franklin D. Roosevelt sitting
in the same stands as Germany's Adolf Hitler in 1936, said Wolf, who
plans legislation banning US officials from traveling to the Beijing
games at taxpayers' expense.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday urged the Chinese
government to "exercise restraint" in responding to protests in Tibet
and called for the release of detained monks.

"We call on the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with
these protests, and we strongly urge all sides to refrain from
violence," Rice said.

"We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognized
right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and
religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who
have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views,"
she said.

But the perceived softening of the Bush administration's human rights
policy on China is also expected to draw broader criticism in the
Democratic party-led Congress, where Beijing's repression in Tibet and
other Chinese rights abuses have raised concerns.

"The violent response by Chinese police forces to peaceful protestors in
Tibet is digraceful," said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy
Pelosi, noting "disturbing" evidence of Beijing's pre-Olympic crackdown
on religious leaders, journalists and lawyers in recent months.

There are already two non-binding resolutions proposed in the House of
Representatives calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics and
Congressional aides said lawmakers were preparing a "comprehensive"
binding bill on China's human rights record.

"For example, the bill may compel US officials visiting Beijing to raise
human rights issues and have officials specially dealing with human
rights issues in key US goverment departments," one aide said.

Human rights groups said Beijing had become numb to US criticism of
Chinese rights abuses highlighted in an annual State Department report
documenting abuses across the globe.

"US policy is not even remotely reflecting the severity of the abuses
that is documented in the report," complained Amnesty's Kumar.

The latest department report, released last week, had a 63-page China
section describing alleged brutality against prisoners, executions
without due process, religious repression. It also cited examples of
torture and forced relocations ahead of the Olympics.
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