Statement by Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights
for hearing on
"State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- Road map
for Budgeting of Democracy and Human Rights Programs of the State Department?"
to be held on
Wednesday, March 7th, at 10:00 a.m., in 2172 Rayburn Building
The opening paragraph of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers to the "inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." These words are a reminder to us all that when one people suffer, we all suffer. When one group is
oppressed, it erodes the fabric of humanity and, thus, endangers the freedom and liberty of all. These words are a call for vigilance and action.
As the beacon of democracy and Cold War victor, the United States has a moral obligation to speak for those whose voices have been silenced and send an unequivocal
message that the United States Government will, as President John F. Kennedy once said: "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."
This is the driving force for the State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and for this Subcommittee.
I would like to commend the work of all involved with the investigation and preparation of the 2000 reports. This year’s reports contain even more data than in previous
years and provide critical assessments of the overall situation in some of the worst countries.
For the first time, the report released last week includes information on the trafficking in persons. This new focus stems from both the increasing threat trafficking poses
to the safety and well-being of children and families across all continents, as well as the Congressional mandate issued last year in Section 104 of the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act of 2000.
Ultimately, these reports serve as a road map for the U.S. in the formulation of policy toward the various countries including such action as sponsoring or supporting
resolutions at the meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. For example, the U.S. will be offering a resolution condemning human rights violations in
China and Chechnya. It is working with the Governments of the Czech and Polish Republics toward passage of a resolution condemning the human rights situation in
Cuba, and is working with its allies to ensure the strongest possible resolution concerning the situation in Sudan.
These reports also provide the foundation for discussions on appointments of U.S. Special Envoys to specific countries and regions, as well as specific steps the U.S.
should take to respond and address the developments discussed in the reports.
Despite generally objective and unvarnished assessments, the report is not without flaw, however, nor is it immune to developments in bilateral diplomatic and commercial
relations between the U.S. and countries analyzed.
Observers will point to the section on Vietnam as an example -- particularly to comments such as "there was some measurable improvement in a few areas." Yet, there
is absolutely no data which substantiates such an assertion. On the contrary, the information provided documents the numerous abuses by the Vietnamese Government
and the poor state of human rights in the country. Skeptics and critics would argue that the "editorial comments" about "improvements" are a result of the pressure
associated with the negotiations taking place between the U.S. and Vietnam toward a bilateral trade agreement.
This will be one of the issues we will address during today’s hearing.
The country report on Haiti also raises questions on the terminology and methods used to measure progress or deterioration. In summarizing the situation in Haiti, the
report states that "The Government’s human rights record was generally poor" – a duplicate assessment of the 1999 report. It makes reference to the completion of two
trials as evidence that the Government had made "some progress" in fighting police impunity and the legacy of human rights abuses.
Haiti also illustrates a potentially dangerous tendency -- that is, using the findings in the reports to measure the impact of U.S. foreign aid and democracy programs.
Administration officials would caution against using the contents of the report in this fashion as, in their view, it would compromise the objectivity of the country
assessments and would diminish the value of the Human Rights Report.
This issue also calls into question the relationship and coordination between the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in promoting
democracy abroad. Some would argue the need to consolidate democracy programs into the State Department, while others highlight the need to follow a coordinated
effort which includes both the long-term locally-focused approach followed by USAID, along with the short-term, high-level diplomatic approach advocated by State.
Ultimately, the demands posed by the escalation of oppression, persecution, torture, and intimidation of ethnic and religious minorities, human rights and political dissidents,
affect the allocation of resources and assistance, as well as training.
Given the Subcommittee’s oversight responsibility over the State Department budget, this is the third major area we will cover during today’s session.
I thank all the witnesses who are joining us today. They and the institutions they represent provide a great service by elevating human rights and democracy to a foreign
policy priority for the United States.
TESTIMONY OF ELISA MASSIMINO
DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON OFFICE
LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 2000
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS
AND HUMAN RIGHTS
March 7, 2001
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and members of the Committee, thank you for convening this hearing and for the opportunity to share our perspective on the State
Department's Country Reports this year. We are grateful to you for your steadfast attention to human rights issues and to the Subcommittee for the vital role it plays in
raising these concerns in the Congress.
My name is Elisa Massimino, and I direct the Washington office of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Since 1978, the Committee has worked to
protect and promote fundamental human rights, holding all governments — including our own — accountable to the standards contained in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and related international human rights instruments. The Lawyers Committee focuses its efforts on how best to protect human rights in a lasting way, by
advancing international law and legal institutions, by working to build structural guarantees for human rights in national legal systems, and by assisting and cooperating
with lawyers and other human rights advocates who are the frontline defenders of human rights at the local level.
As you know, the quality and accuracy of the Country Reports have been of great concern to the Lawyers Committee since the Department of State was first
mandated to present these Reports to the Congress nearly 25 years ago. Beginning in 1979, and until a few years ago, the Lawyers Committee published an extensive
annual Critique of the Reports. We continue to believe that the Reports require and benefit from critical input by the non-governmental human rights community. In
recent years, we have witnessed a steady improvement in the objectivity and comprehensiveness of the Reports. We commend the hundreds of State Department and
foreign service personnel who participated in this effort for their professionalism and diligence in the production of this year’s reports. One of the distinguishing marks of
a good Country Report is the degree to which it reflects extensive consultation by U.S. embassies with local human rights advocates and NGOs. Today’s hearing is an
important forum in which U.S.-based NGOs can critique their government’s reporting and highlight needed changes in next year’s edition of the Country Reports. We
welcome this opportunity.
II. Why the Country Reports are Important
Production of the annual Country Reports is an enormous undertaking. Detailed instructions go out to U.S. diplomats and State Department employees in
Washington and around the world outlining the many areas of substantive focus on which comprehensive information must be submitted for inclusion in the Reports.
The Reports represent an effort to measure the performance of the governments of 195 countries – friend and foe alike – by a common yardstick: compliance with
universally recognized human rights standards.
Governments and rights advocates around the world eagerly await publication of these Reports each year. Obviously, no government relishes public criticism.
And a few governments, like China, attempt to discredit the Reports as an exercise in imperialism from an imperfect country. But this criticism rings false when citizens
of those countries welcome the Reports as an aid in their struggle to secure respect for their rights from abusive governments.
The value of the Country Reports as a baseline for foreign policy decision-making is directly proportional to their objectivity, and for that reason we have always
placed a high premium on their use of dispassionate reporting criteria, based on the application of clear and consistent legal standards. The virtue of human rights law lies
in its universality and impartiality. It embodies a set of agreed upon standards that have universal application and command a growing international consensus.
Politicization is its greatest enemy. For that reason, we are particularly alert to the incursion of politics into the language and use of the Country Reports.
In the earliest years of the Country Reports, the tendency to shield strategic allies — such as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey and the United
Kingdom ¾ from plain-spoken criticism was quite strong, even when the record of their violations was clear. This manifested itself in a variety of subtle and
not-so-subtle ways, including the selective reporting of abuses, the use of editorial and linguistic devices to conceal culpability, and a failure to hold governments and
non?governmental entities to a single, universal standard of conduct.
This year’s Reports represent a further step in the trend away from this kind of politicization. As the Reports have become more and more comprehensive and
detailed in their exposition of the facts, the ability to shield strategic or political allies from direct criticism becomes increasingly difficult. This is not to say that this year’s
Reports are beyond criticism. There are still a number of Reports that seem to bear the mark of political editing, with the intent — or at least the effect — of softening
the impact of more direct language. And there continue to be some omissions that contribute to an incomplete picture of the extent of government responsibility for poor
human rights performance. Examples of these deficiencies in a few select Reports are addressed below. But on the whole, this year’s Reports deserve high marks for
their comprehensiveness and objectivity.
In some ways, this only serves to highlight the instances in which there is a sharp discrepancy between the message delivered by the Reports and U.S. policy
toward governments that have been identified in the Reports as serious human rights violators. The most negative consequence of this, from the point of view of an
effective and principled human rights policy, is that it conveys the impression that candor on human rights is the function of one small part of the foreign policy
bureaucracy ¾ the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor ¾ and not necessarily of the Administration as whole. It is entirely appropriate that the Bureau
should act as the focal point of the human rights effort. But it is inappropriate, and can damage broader U.S. interests, if the Bureau’s voice is seen to be marginalized,
and if abusive governments are therefore able to conclude that human rights are a fringe concern of the Administration that is not echoed and reinforced by other, more
influential government agencies such as the Departments of Defense or Commerce.
This is a serious policy challenge. Its solution, of course, lies well beyond the scope of the Country Reports and can only be addressed through political
leadership by the President who, with his most senior advisors, must develop an effective Administration-wide strategy for tackling these problems. The Introduction to
the Country Reports this year states that they are “backed by the full weight of the U.S. people and Government.” This is a vitally important message that should come
through loud and clear to governments that abuse their people’s rights. But this message will be received only when U.S. policies towards those governments fully
reflect the harsh realities contained in these Reports.
II. Specific Country Concerns
In part because they are so comprehensive, and increasingly technical, readers of the Country Reports may find them to be dry and dispassionate, recounting
calmly the various “improvements” and “setbacks” in country after country. But embedded in these thousands of pages, behind the catalogue of violations, are the
stories of people whose lives have been shattered by torture and whose aspirations for dignity and freedom have been all but extinguished. In Chechnya, China,
Colombia, Cuba, Congo and so many other places, the Reports document human rights abuses that shock the conscience and cry out for redress.
We single out four countries for special comment today, not because they have the worst human rights records, or because the Department has done a
particularly good or bad job reporting on the situations there. Rather we focus on these four because they are instructive of the continued need for the integrity and
even-handedness of the Country Reports, and also to encourage their active use by policy-makers. As the Country Reports become increasingly detailed and even
technical, we are eager to see them realize their full potential as a stimulus to the further strengthening of international human rights law and its enforcement.
The four Reports we examine here — Mexico, the United Kingdom, Turkey and China — demonstrate the strengths and promise of the Reports, as well as
their deficiencies, when a critical eye is turned on a close neighbor, a longtime friend, a strategic ally and a potential emerging market for U.S. businesses. Though
enormously varied in the degree to which they live up to international human rights standards, each of these countries presents a challenge for the new Administration.
And in each instance, the nature of the response by U.S. policymakers will have profound bilateral, regional and even global ramifications.
The most notable feature of the Report on Mexico is the extensive section on the prevalence of torture in the context of the criminal justice system. This section
is quite forceful and accurately identifies many of the most serious issues relating to this problem, using clear, straightforward language. For example, the Report notes
that "the police regularly obtain information through torture, prosecutors use this evidence in courts, and the courts continue to admit as evidence confessions extracted
under torture." The Report also notes that this problem derives in part from the fact that police and prosecutors do not have proper training and equipment and so often
rely on torture as an investigative tactic. In this way, the Report highlights the fact that reliance on torture in criminal investigations not only constitutes serious human
rights abuse but is also not an effective crime fighting technique. The modus operandi of the police described in last year’s Report unfortunately persists: "police
officers often attempt to solve crimes by rounding up likely suspects and then extracting confessions from them by force."
While the Report does not pull any punches in describing the widespread use of torture and its relationship to the lack of accountability, it unfortunately misses an
opportunity to raise the very significant issue of the lack of an effective mechanism in Mexico to compile country-wide data on torture and other serious human rights
violations. Statistics of the National Human Rights Commission showing a decline in complaints of torture have led some officials to suggest this grave problem is no
longer a priority concern. Respected Mexican human rights NGOs, such as the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights (PRODH), have alleged that the
National Human Rights Commission ignores the limitations on its own data collection because of political pressure to suppress information as to the true incidence of
The Report does well to mention that arbitrary detention is among the most common of human rights abuses, but it misstates the rule on detention and in so doing
misses the important issue that arbitrary detention is allowed, even encouraged, by Mexican law. The Report ought to state simply that the problem lies in exceptions to
the general constitutional requirement of extensive judicial supervision of arrest and detention. The exceptions, which have been widened well beyond reasonable bounds
by successive changes in the law, allow police and prosecutors to hold suspects for 48 hours before taking them before a judge. Because courts are inclined to accept
coerced confessions as evidence, this 48-hour period, during which suspects are at the mercy of the police and prosecutors, is a particularly dangerous time. The Report
is right to highlight restrictions on the suspect’s access to a defense attorney and the inadequate representation of poor defendants. The Report could go one step further
and clearly identify the fact that in Mexico suspects are not entitled to counsel during the period of detention for interrogation by the police—a time at which they are
very vulnerable to abuse. On a related point, the Report also fails to address the important issue of unacknowledged custody. Police or prosecutors sometimes keep
detained persons in their custody well beyond the 48 hour limit and cover their tracks by falsifying key information relating to the time and circumstances of detention.
In contrast to the section dealing with torture, however, in some other areas the Report resorts to formulaic statements in order to avoid a more profound
analysis regarding human rights problems in Mexico. For example, the Report states that the judiciary is independent, while noting that it has on occasion been
influenced by the executive branch. Yet, the laws regarding appointments to the bench, which allow for heavy executive branch influence over this process, and the lack
of life-time tenure for judges present real problems for the independence of the judiciary in both law and practice. While the Report is right to state some reforms have
begun to address some problems of independence of the judiciary, the Report could do more to emphasize that many obstacles to independence remain, particularly the
fact that most judges do not have tenure. Lack of independence leaves judges vulnerable to pressure from the executive branch, including prosecutors, to convict based
on tainted confessions.
The Report also states that court hearings are open to the public. But this is misleading and does not reflect an understanding of the actual practice of hearings
in Mexico. There are no courtrooms in Mexico. Generally, four or five hearings are conducted simultaneously before the same judge at several tables in a busy room.
There is no opportunity for the public or the press to actually hear what transpires in any of those hearings. Nor is the judge generally present.
The Report continues to state, as it has in past years, that the Government respects the rights of assembly and association and that a wide variety of human
rights groups operate largely without government restriction. This assertion is simply not born out by the facts, even those set out in the Report. As the Report states,
the Government has been accused of harassing NGOs, especially in the state of Chiapas. The Report also notes that the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights
Center (PRODH) and other organizations are receiving death threats and that the investigations had not yet yielded any concrete results. Mexican law and practice, in
fact, creates a disabling environment in which human rights defenders are frequently harassed and intimidated. The Lawyers Committee has published a briefing paper
analyzing restrictions on Mexican NGOs and laying out a detailed plan for improvements by the Mexican government. United States policy towards Mexico, which tends
to be driven largely by concerns about immigration and drug trafficking, should focus on pressuring the government of Mexico to adopt these measures.
B. United Kingdom/Northern Ireland
The Country Report on the United Kingdom contains a detailed examination of the human rights situation in Northern Ireland and, in general, addresses the
complexities of this situation in a nuanced and careful manner. Discussions of the Police Ombudsman, the Criminal Justice Review, and the legal regime relating to
terrorist offenses in the Report are even-handed and thorough.
As this Committee is well aware, the issue of policing and police reform in Northern Ireland is now at the very heart of the peace process. The scope and pace
of implementation of the Patten Commission recommendations is seen as a test of the UK Government’s commitment to human rights in Northern Ireland, and it is in this
area where the Country Report is most disappointing.
While the Report correctly points out that the ongoing transformation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary “remains controversial,” it fails to explain the most
pressing areas of concern with respect to the human rights and accountability structures that the Patten Commission recommended to the UK Government. Instead, the
report simply states that “the nationalist parties object to the [policing] bill for not strictly following all recommendations of the Patten Commission, while unionist critics
argue that reforms will undermine the effectiveness of the police,” as if this were nothing more than a disagreement between political factions in which compliance with
objective human rights standards is irrelevant. A close look at which recommendations have been accepted and which were rejected by the UK Government would
have revealed that the Government’s choices have tended to weaken the human rights and accountability provisions included in the Patten Commission’s
recommendations. Because we believe that the UK Government still has the time and opportunity to ameliorate some of these concerns in the coming months, and
should be pressed to do so by the Bush Administration, we are particularly concerned that the Report fails to address these points in detail.
Another notable omission is the Report’s total failure to discuss the growing evidence of collusion between members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and
loyalist paramilitaries. Last year, evidence pointing to the existence and activities of the Force Research Unit, a secret army unit that operated in Northern Ireland for
many years, was placed in the public domain. This evidence, which appears to be credible, requires international attention, and the absence of discussion about it in the
Country Report is a serious omission. If the allegations are true, grave violations of human rights are involved, including the breach of the right to life in some instances.
Because of the gravity of the allegations and the prima facie validity of the evidence, this omission from the Report is glaring.
One case that illustrates the concern about the operations of the Force Research Unit is the murder of defense attorney Patrick Finucane. The Report notes
that “human rights organizations, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Finucane’s family have continued to press the
Government during 2000 for an independent public inquiry into the killing” based on “the possible existence of new evidence that would support charges of collusion
between governmental officials and loyalist paramilitary groups in Finucane’s murder.” Not only does the Report fail to recognize that many Members of Congress —
including some who serve on this Committee — have also called for an independent inquiry in the Finucane case, the Report completely fails to examine or explain the
nature of the evidence that has now been made available in the public domain. This evidence includes allegations by former FRU operatives who have exposed the
existence of the FRU in the media and to human rights organizations, descriptions of the unit’s activities, and statements indicating that the unit was involved in the
murder of Patrick Finucane, among others.
Finally, the Report fails to offer any assessment of the UK Government’s inclusion of its derogation from Article 5(3) of the European Convention on Human
Rights in its domestic Human Rights Act, which came into effect in 2000, simply stating that “NGO’s criticize this derogation.” This development is indeed worthy of
criticism, yet the Country Report ignores it. At a time when any arguable justification for the derogation has all but disappeared (the European Court has ruled that such
a derogation can be made only if “an exceptional crisis or emergency which affects the whole population and constitutes a threat to the organized life of the community
of which the state is composed” exists), the UK has chosen to institutionalize this policy. In practice, this will permit the police to detain individuals in Northern Ireland
who the government suspects of so-called “terrorist crimes” for 5 to 7 days without charge.
Continuing the trend from last year, the Report on Turkey is comprehensive and well informed. This extremely thorough analysis reflects a serious commitment
on the part of U.S. diplomats in Turkey, and in the DRL bureau, to follow human rights developments in Turkey. Detailed information such as that found in the extensive
section regarding torture, is in part available because U.S. Government representatives have consulted with Turkish NGOs and have been present at many high profile
trials with a human rights dimension throughout Turkey. Torture, unfair trial and restriction on non-violent freedom of expression remain widespread problems, as the
State Department Report recognizes.
There are, however, continued deficiencies in the Report which merit attention. For example, repeating language from last year, the Report asserts in its
opening paragraph that “the government generally respects the Constitution’s provisions for an independent judiciary.” This assertion is not borne out by the facts. State
Security Courts try civilians accused of crimes against the state, including individuals accused of non-violent actions. Many prosecutions in such courts appear politically
motivated, such as those brought against leaders from the political Islamic movement, the mayor of Istanbul, and non-violent political leaders associated with the Kurdish
issue. Advocates such as Akin Birdal, chairman of the non-governmental Human Rights Association, have been tried before State Security Courts as a result of
statements or publications criticizing the government’s human rights practices. The prosecution of members and supporters of the Human Rights Foundation in Izmir, for
example, seems motivated by an official desire to punish the HRFT for the work it has done to expose torture and promote the accountability of police officers implicated
in the Manisa case. In a previous prosecution of HRFT members, the HRFT obtained copies of official documents showing that the decision to initiate prosecutions had
been based on political considerations and was communicated in memorandum from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. Such politically motivated
prosecutions are an important asterisk to the State Department Report’s assertion that the Turkish judiciary is generally “independent.”
Despite these obvious examples demonstrating the lack of independence in the judiciary, the Country Report fails to provide a forthright critique of the problem.
Instead, in a repeat of last year’s language, we get confusing assertions such as “[t]he Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and in practice the general law
courts generally act independently of the executive and legislative branches; however various officials acknowledge the need for legislative changes to strengthen the
judiciary’s independence.” In commenting on the NSC directives identifying threats to the State, the Report merely concludes that such communiqués “could be
interpreted” as instructions to the judiciary. As for the dominant role of the High Judicial Council in the appointment of judges, the Report fails to speak in its own voice
or even to take a position, reporting only that the composition of the High Court “could impact the independence of the judiciary.”
The Report praises the Turkish Government for its continued “emphasis on human rights issues.” In particular it noted the far-reaching and progressive
“Demirok Report,” a blueprint for constitutional, legislative and administrative reforms for compliance with the European Union’s political criteria that was drafted by a
senior diplomat in the Secretariat of Higher Council for Human Rights. While we agree with the characterization of the Demirok Report, what the Country Report fails
to note is that the Turkish National Security Council and other powerful conservative groups in Turkey reacted so strongly to the report that Demirok was forced to
resign from his post and is now serving in a diplomatic position in Zurich. A revised EU work plan is due out from the Government later this month.
As the Report rightly emphasizes, a climate of impunity for human rights abuse in the security forces is an enormous obstacle to improving Turkey's human
rights record, particularly in the area of torture. The Report states bluntly that “[t]he rarity of convictions and the light sentences imposed on police and other security
officials for killings and torture . . . foster a climate of impunity that remained the single largest obstacle to reducing torture and prisoner abuse.” In the few cases where
prosecutions and convictions of police officers have occurred, such convictions have been reversed on appeal or the sentences have been drastically reduced.
The Report outlines a number of legal reforms designed to improve laws that have proved to be an obstacle to accountability. But the Report fails to note what
is needed in order to close the gap between law and practice. Reforming the law is only one part of what needs to be done in order to curtail torture and the other gross
violations arising from the absence of accountability. Attitudes need to change throughout the law enforcement and criminal justice communities. Police officers need to
know that their superiors will not turn a blind eye to brutality. Prosecutors and judges need to uphold that the principle that torture is always wrong, and they need to
have the confidence that when they uphold the law they will not suffer adverse professional consequences. Prosecutors and judges should be supported by other state
authorities when they make decisions which may go against state interests or government officials. Lawyers need to approach the task of representing their clients as an
essential professional duty, not as a political battle with hostile state forces.
The Country Report on China is perhaps the most closely watched chapter in the annual volume. This attention has led to a tendency to draft the Report with
an eye to the “sound bites” that it will generate for immediate attention by the media; these in turn serve as crude indicators of policy for domestic constituencies as well
as a diplomatic signal to China. While the “sound bites” this year — that China’s “poor human rights record worsened” or that political and religious dissenters live in an
“environment filled with repression” — are entirely accurate representations of the current reality in China, they must be matched with policies that effectively address
problems of such magnitude. Those policies do not currently exist.
This year’s Report details profound and widespread violations by China of internationally recognized human rights norms, and these violations must — and must
be seen by China to — affect every aspect of its relationship with the United States. This is not to say that promotion of human rights is necessarily served by
disengagement with China. Quite the contrary. Further engaging China in the web of international agreements and norms has the potential to catalyze change in the long
term. Legal reforms have new resonance in China in the context of an opening economy, and attempts to reform China’s commercial legal system could provide a
foundation for an independent judiciary and other essential elements of an accountable justice system. But this must be combined with consistent pressure for
improvements from outside China. That is why the pursuit of a resolution condemning China’s dismal human rights record at the Human Rights Commission next month
is so important. We commend the Administration for pursuing it, as well as those in Congress who have consistently called for such a resolution.
Although engagement may provide a framework in which to foster human rights improvements, engagement must be towards a purpose and will not of itself
necessarily lead to any changes in China’s human rights performance. Human rights concerns must permeate our interactions with China in all of the issues with which
we engage the Chinese government. China should not be able to cut off dialogue or avoid criticism by the United States about its human rights violations simply by
refusing to meet with U.S. officials who carry a human rights portfolio. Human rights violations in China undermine U.S. strategic and economic interests there, and that
judgment should be reflected in every high level meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials. Human rights should not be portrayed to the Chinese as an area where we
will “agree to disagree.”
In past years, we have criticized the Country Report on China for failing to analyze the complex changes in Chinese law that, if properly implemented, may lead
to reform. This year’s Report continues the welcome trend of the last two years by providing a highly detailed explanation of the legal reforms and the extent to which
they have – or have failed to – produce concrete improvements in human rights. This emphasis on systemic legal problems should serve as a model for all the Country
The China Report is extremely detailed, and there are many aspects of it worthy of comment. I will focus briefly on just two issues here: police abuse – in
particular through the mechanism of “re-education through labor – and the rights of workers.
The Report does a very good job of highlighting the failure of criminal law reforms to address the abusive re-education through labor system, under which
authorities can administratively, without trial, sentence individuals to up to 3 years in labor camps. This system has been the subject of serious debate among legal
reformers in China, yet the government has increasingly used re-education through labor as an instrument in its crackdown on the Falun Gong. As UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said last week, the re-education through labor system is “inherently arbitrary.” She called on the PRC Government to
abolish it altogether. The Bush Administration should do all it can to reinforce this message and should work to ensure that any attempts by China to “reform” the
system do not operate to further entrench arbitrary police power.
The Report has an extensive section outlining the widespread violations of the rights of Chinese workers. China’s ratification last week of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was an important step towards drawing China into the web of international agreements and obligations to respect
fundamental human rights. But this ratification had a giant asterisk next to it, namely that China insists it will “approach Article 8(1) of the treaty in accordance with the
PRC Constitution, trade union law and labor law.” China’s constitution, trade union law and labor law make clear that there is only one, government-recognized trade
union in China. Thus, this statement indicates that China intends to violate the object and purpose of the treaty. China’s ratification of this treaty does not change the
Dr. Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow
Center for Religious Freedom
International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee
of the House International Relations Committee
March 7, 2001
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for inviting Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom to testify at today's hearings on the State
Department's Country Reports on Human Rights. I am appearing today as a Senior Fellow of the Center for Religious Freedom.
Before beginning, I wish to express our deep appreciation for your leadership in holding these important annual hearings on human rights, and
for your personal dedication to ensuring that human rights concerns remain a force in U.S. foreign policy. Such oversight is vitally important both in
mobilizing appropriate foreign policy tools by American policy makers, and in sending a powerful message to governments throughout the world that the
American people are not indifferent to crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights wherever they may occur.
The Country Reports constitute the most detailed human rights compilation in the world. This year's Country Reports reflect a monumental
effort on the part of the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. They and all the American Foreign Service officers throughout the world
who contributed to the Reports deserve to be commended. In particular, the Report on China is exemplary and could serve as template for other country
reports. We will make critical comments about the Reports, but this should not obscure the fact that they are an important and excellent piece of work.
The Growth of Freedom
As you may know, Madam Chairman, Freedom House tracks the ebb and flow of democracy and respect for human rights. As the new
Congress begin their work, the United States has an opportunity to shape its foreign policy in an environment of democratic states that share America's commitment to
democracy, the rule of law, and economic freedom rooted in property rights. This emerging environment should enhance the prospects of broad international cooperation
on behalf of the expansion of freedom, prosperity, and stability. This is also an environment is which the violations addressed in the State Department review are able to
find greater international resonance and to have a greater impact.
In particular, the struggle for human rights is unfolding in a world in which there is forward momentum toward greater freedom. As the year 2000 drew to a
close, Freedom House's year-end Survey of Freedom in the World showed no let up in the world's two-decade long march toward increased political rights and civil
As the year drew to close, there were 86 Free countries (2,465.2 billion people; 40.69 percent of the world population) in which a broad range of political rights
are respected; 59 Partly Free countries (1,442.2 billion people; 23.80 percent of the world's population) in which there was a mixed record with more limited political
rights and civil liberties often accompanied by corruption, weak rule of law, and the inordinate political dominance of a ruling party in some cases characterized by ethnic
or religious strife. There were 47 countries rated Not Free (2,151.1 billion people; representing 35.51 percent of the globe's population), in which basic political rights and
civil liberties are denied.
In all, the Survey showed that in the year 2000, there was significant progress toward freedom in 25 countries and significant setbacks for freedom in 18
countries. Moreover, 40.69 % of people living under freedom is the highest in the history of the survey.
Today, there are ten more Free countries than five years ago. In the same period, there has been a decline in the number of Not Free countries by six, and there
are three fewer Partly Free countries. The trend is even more dramatic when compared to the state of affairs a decade ago. Since 1990, there has been an overall
increase of 21 in the number of Free countries, an increase of nine in the number of Partly Free states, and a drop of three in the number of Not Free states. These
figures reflect an increase of twenty- seven sovereign countries during the decade, largely due to the disintegration and separation of multinational states.
These gains have been registered during a period when many believed that the world was spinning out of control due to a series of bloody and widely reported
civil wars and inter-ethnic conflicts. In fact, the Survey evidence shows clear gains for freedom in each of the last seven years. Moreover, Survey evidence indicates
that the impression of a growing number of ethnic conflicts is considerably exaggerated. In fact, the last few years have seen an overall decline in the number of major
civil wars and interstate conflicts that claim more than 1,000 lives per annum.
Currently, there is a sharp debate has unfolded over how to promote global respect for human rights. On one side are strong proponents of U.S. sovereignty who
are skeptical of the efficacy, reliability, and jurisdiction of a growing body of “international law” that is not subject to the regulation and modification of democratically
constituted legislative authority. On the other are those who argue for permanent institutions to enforce international law, including the emerging International Criminal
A middle ground in which both sides could agree rests in the fostering of systematic cooperation among the countries that adhere to the rule of law and
democratic practice, and increased cooperation among the democracies in exerting pressure against regimes that violate basic rights and support terrorism.
In this regard, the limited progress made in the last year toward the creation of a Community of Democracies creates important new possibilities. The
Community of Democracies—a ministerial level meeting of 107 countries—adopted a wide-ranging declaration in Warsaw in June 2000. The declaration, pledged states
to work together in coordinated fashion in assisting transitional societies. It also pledged to create democracy caucuses in global and regional organizations.
Significantly, the Community of Democracies initiative has been followed up at the United Nations, where for the first time a “Caucus of the Democracies” has
been established and begun to meet. This can become an important force for the reform of ineffective international organizations.
The Need for Focus and Priorities
As the Human Rights Country Reports have become more comprehensive, they have come to be relied on by many policy makers, immigration officials and
judges, the media, and human rights defenders. Precisely because the Reports are viewed by many as authoritative, this exercise of providing critiques to continuously
fine-tune and improve the Reports is essential, and not a matter of mere quibbling.
Many of the reports provide excellent summaries of the status of religious freedom. Others need revision. Perhaps the most frequently cited problem with the
Reports is that their findings do not always correspond to American policy action.
While there are various underlying explanations, part of the problem is attributable to the Reports themselves. Many of the Reports contain an overwhelming
and unselective compilation of facts and information without reaching definitive conclusions, or conveying a sense of priority. Fundamental human rights problems are lost
sight of in a welter of detail. Severe violators are hidden in an avalanche of information. In some cases, this may be an attempt to downplay abuses and avoid making
embarrassing conclusions about the conduct of valued allies and trading partners – reporting that might lead to calls for sanctions.
There is a need to give real focus and priority designation in a report of this magnitude and type. Prioritizing who are the worst violators, and, within each
country report section, which are the most fundamental human rights problems is essential to ensuring that appropriate focus and concerted attention is given by the U.S.
State Department, Congress and, as well as non-governmental human rights groups.
Under section 502b of the Foreign Assistance Act, governments that carry out "systematic," and "gross" violations of human rights are to be subject to U.S.
sanctions. This section of the Act has proved unworkable and has rarely been invoked because, tragically, it covers too large a category of offenders. I am not
suggesting that the State Department undertake anything as elaborate as Freedom House's own systematic ranking of countries in its Freedom in the World survey and
its Religious Freedom in the World. However, a more selective listing of the most egregious human rights violators and violations is needed.
The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act might provide a model for this. This Act requires the Administration, not only to produce an annual report, but
also to designate egregious religious persecutors as "countries of particular concern." Such a designation triggers under the Act a Presidential announcement within 90
days of what policies the Administration will adopt to improve religious freedom in the countries in question. This mechanism – priority designation combined with a
mandatory policy articulation – is guaranteed to produce a short-list of worst case violators where, hopefully, the US government is willing to expend political capital to
end genocide, crimes against humanity, and other severe human rights violations.
The time has come for a similar prioritizing in the general area of human rights. This is shown most urgently in the case of Sudan. While Freedom House’s
overall evaluation of the Reports is positive, several individual reports have major problems. We will review some of these, beginning with the major one, Sudan.
After reading the 18-single-space-page Sudan report, one can only wonder how a report so lengthy could fall so short of the mark. Nowhere does the report
convey the sense that genocide of horrifying proportions is being conducted by the government of Sudan against the Christians and traditional believers of the south. The
Sudan report suffers from biased assessments, and a failure (perhaps deliberate) to prioritize information. These factors make it stand out as the weakest country report
in a compilation that is on the whole very useful and informative.
Despite the two million dead and the 4.5 million displaced, the words “genocide” and “genocidal” never appear in the text. No doubt this is a reflection of the
policy of the last administration, which neglected to evaluate Khartoum’s policies against international standards of genocide, and assiduously avoided making any such
determination despite a specific recommendation by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Inexplicably, the report also is silent about other respected
authorities in the private sector that have examined and condemned as “genocidal” Khartoum’s policies of bombing humanitarian and civilian targets, advancing slavery,
and imposing mass, selective starvation. These include the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Catholic
Bishops’ Conference and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. It fails to mention that no less an authority than the National Holocaust Memorial’s Committee of Conscience has
made Sudan its first non-European country of focus in a yearlong project.
While the report acknowledges many of the government’s worst atrocities, the impact and significance of these actions are lost in a welter of detail in which
vastly smaller-scale human rights violations of the rebel forces are “balanced” against descriptions of government actions. For example, the report mentions the fact that
the government and the rebels restrict the delivery of international food aid, but does not explain that the government’s actions caused 2.6 million people to be brought to
the brink of starvation, and actually killed 100,000, two years ago, and continue to cause starvation to this day, while the rebels sporadic diversion of food aid has never
been alleged to cause mass starvation. Again and again, whether discussing civilian deaths or abductions (more accurately, slave raids on the part of the regime) the
report neglects to note the overwhelming proportions of government atrocities. The recurring attempts to establish a moral equivalency between the sides of the civil war
is a major failing of the Sudan report.
In contrast to the China report, the Sudan report avoids coming to any conclusion or spotting any trends about the annihilation of the rights of southern peoples.
While the China report notes a “marked deterioration” in religious rights over the past year, the Sudan report makes no such judgments. This is inexcusable in light of the
severity of abuses over the past year, with bombing incidents of civilians having doubled in 2000, and with ever-greater tracts of territory being subject to scorched earth
policies of the regime. We are told of comparably minor improvements – e.g., on page 5 that detention of religious believers “decreased in the latter half of the year,”
and on page 7 that the government’s practice of razing squatter dwellings “decreased greatly during the year” and that the enforcement of women’s dress codes “was
reduced greatly during the year” -- but are never told that the murder and displacement of Christians and other minority religious believers continued to rise as the
government upgraded its destructive capabilities with new found oil revenues. In fact, the crucial link between oil development in the past year and escalation in the
regime’s warfare is all but overlooked. The fact that the report repeatedly omits noting these catastrophic trends while accentuating positive minor developments
undermines its reliability.
An anti-religious bias is also apparent in the Sudan report. While the report mentions the findings and conclusions of secular human rights groups, no
religious-based rights group is cited for its findings. This is peculiar since there are numerous Christian humanitarian agencies on-site throughout the war zones
documenting the atrocities. The Rev. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Hospital, Christian Solidarity International, Calvary Chapel Sudan project, the Blue Nile
Project, Bishop Gassis’ Sudan Relief and Rescue, Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Solidarity Worldwide are just a few such sources of valuable facts and figures on
bombings, slavery, calculated starvation and genocide.
Finally, in several places the report asserts “there are reliable reports that Islamic NGO’s in war zones withhold food and other services from the needy unless
they convert to Islam.” It then states “there were reports that Christian NGO’s used their services to pressure persons to convert to Christianity during the year.” The
first assertion about Islamic NGO’s is well-established and was documented and written about by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom because –
and this is the crucial point – they were doing so with U.S. tax-payer supported food aid. Former Rep. Jon Christiansen recently returned from Sudan with photos of
humanitarian aid parcels bearing U.S. AID stamps being distributed by an Islamic group on a “conversion-to-eat” basis. Whether the “reports” of Christian pressure to
convert were reliable or not the State Department report does not say; the sources have never been revealed. Whether the “pressure” exerted by the Christian groups
was the threat of starvation also is not made clear in the report. And lastly, the critical issue of whether the “services” of the Christian groups included the provision of
U.S. aid is simply not addressed in the report. Here again the report seems more intent on providing “balance” than in spotting serious human rights problems to which
U.S. policy could be directed.
The State Department report has accurately depicted the Cuban government as among the most repressive regimes in the world. Freedom House likewise
regards Cuba as a major violator of human freedom. In our latest survey of political freedom and civil liberties around the world, Freedom House ranks Cuba with Iraq,
Burma, Libya, North Korea, and other oppressive states—a group which together constitute a Rogue’s Gallery of human rights offenders. The Report is an accurate and
thorough overview of the state of human rights in Cuba.
Our only additional comment, much to the misfortune of the Cuban people, is that human rights abuses have continued unabated, and have perhaps even
intensified, in the most recent months beyond the scope of the DRL report. The persecution and harassment of dissidents continues unabated. In late December 2000,
more than 250 activists were arrested. Maintaining its typical pattern, the government released most of these people within 24 hours of their arrest, although several
remain in prison. More than 100 of these arrests took place during the 72 hours leading up to December 10, the 52nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, and were designed to prevent human rights advocates from staging commemorative events. Whereas Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, the Secretary General of the
Council of Cuban Workers, was released from jail in January, Maritza Lugo Fernandez, the acting president of the Democratic November 30 Party, was detained yet
again on January 2 and has been held despite increasingly serious health problems. And finally, just days ago, the regime briefly detained a number of prominent
pro-democracy advocates, including Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, the president of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and Reconciliation, in the attempt to prevent
activities related to the anniversary of the 1996 shooting down of two civilian planes flown by four Cuban exiles searching for rafters over international waters.
It should also be noted that the Cuban government has made it a priority to interfere with, if not entirely prevent, contact between Cuban pro-democracy
advocates and the outside world. In this instance, Freedom House can contribute additional information to the DRL report. Whereas the State Department mentioned the
detention or arrest of Swedish and French journalists, Freedom House can report that the Cuban government also detained several other foreign visitors with the aim of
hindering person-to-person contact. Last year, two Latvian pro-democracy activists, one Romanian journalist and one Polish journalist were arrested and interrogated as
a result of contacts with pro-democracy and human rights activists in Cuba. In reality, their only crime was to talk to people about the current situation in Cuba and to
inform Cubans about the process of political and economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe.
This disturbing trend has continued into the new year. On January 12, two prominent Czech citizens, Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, were arrested after meeting
with a human-rights activist and an independent journalist in the province of Ciego de Avila. Pilip and Bubenik were held for three weeks, and charges were not brought
forward until the final week of their detention. The two were finally released as a result of international pressure. Generally speaking, it appears that the Castro regime
will continue to intensify measures designed to control contact between Cuban citizens and foreigners.
Finally, Freedom House has observed that the abusive practice of failing to authorize medical attention for sick prisoners has also continued into 2001. According
to a report from the APLO news agency on February 21, two prisoners have died in the Combinado del Este prison in Guantanamo because they did not receive
appropriate medical attention. Since 1999, six prisoners have died in Combinado del Este for the same reason.
The Egypt section of the State Department's Human Rights Practices Report is very uneven. The serious findings of violations of religious freedom against
Egypt's Copts of the last year are undercut by the Report's determination that "The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas, and its
record improved somewhat over the previous year." In fact, several the improvements cited are either misrepresented-such as the restrictions on church repairs-or are
insignificant in contrast to the grave violations, arrests and denials of justice experienced by the Copts over the past year
For example, the Report describes the massacre of Christians in Al-Kosheh early last year as "clashes" and "exchanges" between Muslims and Christians. The
Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House completed a mission to Egypt last year and has produced a 130-page report on the massacre that shows that all those
murdered were Coptic Christians, and that local police were complicit in these actions.
In trials which concluded on February 5, 2001, everyone charged with murder or attempted murder in the massacre was acquitted, an event which has caused
outrage among human rights groups and the Christian minority in Egypt. It has also caused fear among the Coptic community, expressed at the highest level, that they do
not have any protection from the Egyptian Government.
We are concerned that the Report may be soft-pedaling the persecution of the Copts in deference to the Middle East peace process. The credibility of the
Reports hinges on their ability to state accurately and unflinchingly the status of religious freedom irrespective of other U.S. strategic and economic interests. The Egypt
section falls short on this score.
(The following comments on Turkmenistan are drawn from information and comments provided to Freedom House by the Keston Institute in the U.K., the
preeminent authority on religious freedom in former Communist countries). The Report on Turkmenistan - while much stronger and more accurate than in previous years
– seriously underestimates the Turkmen government's plan to eliminate non-Sunni Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox religious faiths. The report states only that the
government "restricts" unregistered religious communities and presents the numerous cases of specific violations as isolated incidents when in fact they form part of a
systematic plan. In particular, the report fails to make clear the full implications of failure to get registration: that all communal activity is then treated as illegal, despite the
absence of any law stating this.
Keston has found that no non-Muslim or non-Orthodox religious group continues to function without severe harassment. Any organized, public religious activity
by any religious groups apart from Sunni Muslims and Russian Orthodox is treated as illegal and is now subject to targeted and vicious state pressure.
The report also fails to mention expulsion of religious believers from their jobs, the seven Jehovah's Witnesses in prison labor camp for their religious activity or
refusal to perform compulsory military service, pressure from KNB and other law enforcement officers on ethnic Turkmen to convert to Islam, the closure of all Baptist
Union churches in the country (there were three or four) and also of Ashgabad's Pentecostal church, which is threatened with confiscation.
The neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are themselves considering harsh new laws on religion that are more likely to be passed if
Turkmenistan gets away with its current drive to crush all Protestant activity, even including the Baptist congregation in Ashgabad that was legally registered during
The report does not stress that Russian actions against the Chechen people are a program of deliberate and collective punishment of the Chechens and a
comprehensive campaign to subjugate them. It also leaves an impression that both sides have equal responsibilities for war crimes. However, the Russian atrocities are
far more massive than any Chechen ones. This is illustrated by the recent discovery of a mass grave of some 200 people near a Russian military base in Chechnya,
combined with the fact that not one Russian soldier has ever been convicted of a war crime in Chechnya, either in this conflict or the previous one.
The report ignores the situation of Sunni citizens who are not adherents of the official branch, and the book burnings of confiscated Shia and Christian religious
In conclusion Madam Chairman, we would like to thank you holding these important hearing and for this opportunity to appear before you.
SUPPORTING POLITICAL LIBERALIZATION IN CHINA:
THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES
Testimony Before the Subcommittee On International Operations
And Human Rights
Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives
March 7, 2001
Catharin E. Dalpino
Deputy Director, Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies
The Brookings Institution
Thank you for this invitation to appear before the Subcomittee to discuss U.S. assistance for democracy programs; the role of the Human Rights Reports
in formulating assistance strategies; and, as a case study, U.S. programs to promote greater openness in China. My views are informed by my
experience as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 1993 to 1997, and by my research on
recent political change in China at the Brookings Institution.
Since 1989, China’s human rights record and its political system have been the subject of polarized debate in the U.S. policy community. This has
complicated (and sometimes prevented) attempts to formulate official policy to support emerging trends in China which could help build the scaffolding for
greater protection of rights and, over time, promote greater political openness. The reasons for this are numerous: opposing views on the likely path of
political change in China; disagreement over the policy instruments most appropriate to encouraging change; significant problems in the overall
U.S.-China relationship; and the legal and bureaucratic obstacles to funding and implementing programs in China. Attempts by the State Department’s
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) to launch a modest assistance effort for China since 1995, in support of broader U.S. policy to
promote human rights in that country, have been subject to these various issues.
This experience has also laid bare the difficulties encountered by a bureau, whose primary responsibility has been monitoring the daily status of human
rights on a global basis, in developing a long-term vision and strategy for encouraging political and social change in a specific country, indeed the most
populous country of the world, and certainly one of the most complicated ones. DRL, and indeed the State Department on the whole, are often forced to
pursue a "fire engine" approach to human rights policy, focusing on large-scale abuses or new incidents of repression in target countries. This leaves little
time or personnel to note or encourage more subtle trends which, over time, could become the basis for a more open system, or which mark a new
direction in citizen-state relations.
A complicating factor for U.S. human rights policy in China, and more narrowly for assistance programs to China, is the complex and sometimes
contradictory nature of Chinese political development. A step toward a more liberal environment is often matched by a step backward. In a country as
large and complex as China, it can be difficult to discern a clear bottom line when both positive and negative trends are simultaneously in play.
This difficulty is exacerbated by the expectations for political change held by many Americans in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and by the
perception that democratization is an imminent and inevitable trend -- in the phrase coined by Harvard Professor Samuel Huntingon, a "wave" -- sweeping
the world. It is incontrovertible that several new democracies have arisen in the past twenty years. It is also obvious that some of these new democratic
systems are experiencing backsliding and other problems which demonstrate the difficulties of moving away from authoritarian rule. However, the popular
perception of an era of democratic revolutions, indeed of "pop-up" democracies, has built a great deal of impatience into policies toward the remaining
authoritarian societies. In the extreme version of this view, the best policy measures -- indeed, the only credible ones -- are those which promise to deliver
authoritarian regimes to democracy’s door. Not surprisingly, such policies are in short supply. This perspective has also encouraged a monolithic view of
countries which remain under authoritarian rule. Too often, there is little effort to distinguish between the political systems and the prospects for change
among countries on the repressive end of the spectrum. This limited view has resulted in a single formula for a human rights policy toward these
countries. With our former cold war adversaries in particular, that formula is based on factors which led to the demise of communist rule in the former
Soviet bloc (or those factors which we believe contributed to that end), and on U.S. efforts to promote human rights and democracy in that region during
the cold war.
In this policy environment, it has been difficult to gain broad support for programs which seek to build on positive trends in China, even if the larger portion
of our human rights policy continues to focus on areas of repression. And, not surprisingly, initial efforts to inaugurate an official assistance program for
China mirror U.S. policy toward the former Soviet bloc. The emphasis on dissidents outside of China; the prohibition against working with Chinese
government agencies, even with reformers within those agencies; and the insistence on funding groups whose stated purpose is to democratize China
are all borrowed from the cold war era. At this juncture in China’s political development, it would be more appropriate to design an assistance program
builds on existing trends and which encourages political liberalization -- defined as promoting more open and responsive government, and greater
participation for citizens in public policy -- but does not demand instant democratization. Such an approach may, paradoxically, be the shorter and the
surer path toward encouraging eventual democratization in China. However, crafting such a program requires a hard assessment of what present
realities in China, both positive and negative, and a considerable adjustment in our policy approach.
Toward a More Effective Assistance Approach
In making such a paradigm shift, it is not necessary to design an approach to promoting political change in China out of whole cloth. Although the issue of
official U.S. assistance to China is relatively new, and somewhat contentious, American non-governmental efforts to support Chinese trends in political
development, as opportunities present themselves, have been ongoing since 1979. Using U.S. Government funds appropriated to them through general
grants, or using private sources, a small group of American non-governmental organizations have worked steadily and productively with Chinese
universities, think tanks, civic organizations and government entities on a widening range of issues. The most experienced of these organizations include
The Asia Foundation -- which presently works in the areas of Chinese legal reform; local governance; nonprofit sector development; and economic reform
-- and the Ford Foundation, whose current programs in China aim to strengthen government accountability and support the development of social
organizations. A number of other American NGO’s have mounted smaller efforts in China, in fields such as legal training, but have accumulated valuable
The relative success of such NGO’s -- in being able to work in cutting-edge and sensitive areas of Chinese social and political development -- can be
attributed to their operating philosophies. These groups have gained the confidence of a variety of Chinese governmental and non-governmental actors;
have followed an incremental approach to encouraging change; and, perhaps most important, have been able to identify and support indigenous
initiatives. The experience of these organizations is instructive in building an official assistance program for China, and serves as an important backdrop.
Equally important, an official assistance program for China should seek to work with American organizations who bring to the table expertise and
experience with China. This goes against the current preference for offshore, "parachute" organizations which field consultants who might have valuable
technical advice, but which are not in a position to assess the impact of those consultancies or to support follow-up activities. It is no coincidence that
some of the most effective American NGO’s working in China have offices in Beijing or Hong Kong, and employ respected Chinese senior staff in those
Beyond the choice of partners, a program designed to support liberalization in China at the present time should consider the following:
o Employing a more instrumental and a less ideological approach. U.S. human rights policy in China has tended to focus on individuals and groups
which challenge the political authority of the current regime, and which function as a would-be opposition force. This is a natural and appropriate concern
for our human rights diplomacy, but it does not necessarily translate into an effective assistance policy. At the time, programs should focus on wherever
new freedoms are emerging or being enlarged, rather than on simply the most confrontational forces. In China, many citizens are focusing not on the
political form of their government but on whether or not their government is effective and accountable. Groups which lobby for improved social services or
better environmental protection are often able to gain access and exert influence on policymakers more readily than those who call for a formal change of
o Refraining from demanding a strict separation between state and society. Policymakers often place more stringent demands upon the institutions
in an authoritarian system than on those in democratizing societies, where institutional amphibiousness may also linger. In the liberalization (as distinct
from democratization ) phase, external donors should expect to encounter (and work with) state institutions under the influence of the regime and social
organizations with links to the government. Indeed, even in established democracies there are considerable "grey areas" between state and society, but
because of the strength of democratic institutions in these countries, we tend not to be alarmed by those blurred distinctions. In the wake of the "people’s
power" revolutions of the 1980's, some Americans assume that the only route to political change in authoritarian states is one in which a confrontational
civil society agitates for a change in the political system through relentless protest and other opposition. Although this is a favored model in some policy
circles, in reality it is a rare one. In the majority of countries which have moved away from authoritarianism, political change has been a matter of
long-term negotiation, within regimes and between state and society.
In present-day China, an assistance program should seek to encourage greater pluralism in both state and society, rather than in attempting to force a
strict separation between the two. This could translate into helping social organizations gain greater competence for self-rule, even if they remain under
some governmental controls, or aiding government ministries charged with implementing more liberal reforms. The latter also enables external donors to
support moderates and reformers within the government, without intruding into the political process in a way which could be counter-productive.
o Employing regional strategies where possible and appropriate. A decade of
rhetorical battle between the United States and China has left many Chinese, even ordinary ones, with the impression that U.S. policy seeks to impose
American political models onto China. As other Asian countries continue to make democratic strides, opportunities are expanding to encourage regional
dialogue on political change and to reverse the impression that more open social and political institutions are necessarily Western imports. In the case of
China, there is added impetus to encourage regional dialogue on political and social reform, because such issues increasingly affect the mainland’s
relations with Hong Kong and, of course, with Taiwan. These dialogues should be promoted in a low-key and cautious manner, preferably through
American non-governmental groups. One notable example in this regard is the Elizabeth Luce Moore Leadership Program for Chinese Women,
sponsored by the Institute for International Education and funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, which brings together women leaders of
non-governmental and community groups from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan with their American counterparts. Such programs help to build
networks within key sectors in Asian countries, and to help reinforce momentum for reform.
Official Assistance: State or USAID?
Given the somewhat daunting task of finding appropriate strategies to promote political liberalization in China, it is tempting to conclude that there is little
role for U.S. assistance at this stage in China’s political development, and at this juncture in U.S.-China relations. Although American NGO’s will continue
to be key players in the effort to encourage political change in China, there are arguments for a prudent U.S. Government program. Given the close
attention that the United States gives to China’s human rights abuses, refusal to assist positive trends toward greater openness gives our human rights
policy a disingenuous tone. This perception has intensified in the wake of the 1997-98 U.S.-China Summits, during which the two governments agreed to
cooperate on promoting the rule of law in China.
However, at this time there is no clear bureaucratic fit within the U.S. Government for an assistance program to promote liberalization in China. The
United States Agency for International Development has no program in China, nor is one likely in the immediate future, given the overall tenor of
U.S.-Chinese relations. At this point in time, China does not fit the criteria for a "sustainable development" country, which includes a formal commitment
to democracy on the part of the government. For these reasons, as well as to ensure that programs are consonant with our broader human rights policy
for China, oversight and implementation of China programs has fallen primarily to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and
Labor. This has proved to be a problematic course, since most State Department officials, foreign service officers in particular, have little training in
program management. If a China assistance program is to continue to be administered by DRL, this deficit should be addressed through recruitment of
civil service officers with such training, or by other means of ensuring that program management functions are adequately covered.
Using the Human Rights Reports
A final issue attendant the subject of DRL-managed programs is the application of the annual human rights reporting process to assistance programs
with China and other countries under authoritarian rule. Overall, the reports are structured to provide critical information to policymakers, but not to shape
policy itself. In my view, the Department has been correct in resisting occasional external pressure to describe and evaluate U.S. human rights policy as
part of the reporting process. That could politicize the reports, or encourage reporting that supports a particular policy. However, if the reports are to be
more useful to assistance programs managed by DRL., they would do well to expand reporting on institutional reform and trends in state-societal
relations which are more relevant to assistance programs. At this time, reports tend to focus on and document human rights abuse in quantifiable
measures, but they frequently skim over, or omit altogether, reporting on more subtle but potentially important attitudinal changes. Without such expanded
reporting, the human rights reports will serve as an implicit series of benchmarks for countries such as China which do not adequately describe or
assess the prospects for political and social reform. Just as our view of change in countries such as China should be broadened, so should our most
basic policy instruments.