After China Pact, a Diminished Role for Human Rights? ; Administration Officials Say They Will Continue to Demand Democraticreform

Article excerpt

Although not mentioned in the trade agreement between the US and China, human rights have played and will continue to play a central role in bringing the Asian giant into the World Trade Organization.

US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky cautiously said yesterday that the deal signed this week "should be judged on the basis of its merits as a trade agreement" and not as a measure to catalyze reform throughout China.

She told a breakfast meeting of reporters that "democratic political reform and greater adherence to human rights are certainly encouraged by an opening to the West and Western norms."

For years, US officials have been concerned about Beijing's reluctance to allow democratic opposition or social reform. In 1989, China shocked the world with a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Most recently, Chinese officials banned the Falun Gong, a popular spiritual movement, and jailed many members.

Congress's part to play

Members of Congress, whose votes are needed to keep the agreement alive, have also expressed concern that the Chinese have a history of breaking agreements - and even stealing military secrets. They have also threatened military action against US ally Taiwan. Further, some officials worry that the agreement will harm US workers - one reason that unions oppose the measure.

Those concerns will be at the top of the list as the Clinton administration begins a heavy lobbying campaign to bring Congress aboard. …

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