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Human Rights Policy Questioned

 .c The Associated Press 


Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers attacked the Clinton's administration's human
rights policy Friday as a ``live and let die'' approach that puts U.S.
interests above oppression of other nations' people. 

``The message we are sending to the world is that the government of the
United States is committed to the protection of fundamental human rights only
insofar as such a commitment does not threaten to interfere with anything
else it wants to accomplish,'' said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who was
chairing a meeting of the House International Relations Committee. 

Criticism came from the other side of the aisle, too, as the State Department
presented its annual country-by-country human rights report. 

Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., questioned whether the reports have accomplished
anything during the two decades they've been issued. 

``Do you think we really have saved lives?'' he asked, adding, ``I think
there's a lot of cynicism attached to these human rights reports.'' 

And freshman Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, sitting on the panel
for the first time, complained that the United States seems to have settled
into a dichotomy policy that separates human rights from other issues,
especially involving allies and unyielding nations such as China. 

``We are here in a sense to cry tears for the victims (of human rights
abuses), but they seem to be crocodile tears,'' Kucinich said. 

Kucinich, who complained the United States wasn't doing enough to punish
nations that exploit child labor such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, called the
U.S. human rights position a ``live and let die policy.'' 

Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, the U.S. human rights chief,
defended the policy of engagement, saying that isolating countries such as
China can worsen the situation for its citizens. He also noted that in some
cases the United States has taken action against abusive nations, including
imposing economic sanctions against Pakistan, for example. 

``The spotlight itself can have a very strong impact on human rights,''
Shattuck said, arguing that the State Department reports hold countries up
for a critical world view. ``... The pursuit of human rights and democracy is
absolutely critical to our economic interests.'' 

In response to Hamilton, Shattuck said he believes the human rights reports
have helped save lives. And he pointed to Haiti and Bosnia as two recent
successes thanks to diplomatic and military intervention by the United States
and other nations last year. A military regime was removed from Haiti, and
the United States helped broker a peace agreement in Bosnia. 

``There is no battle that is being lost on human rights,'' he said. 

Overall, members of the House committee praised Shattuck's work and the
country reports, which found that the worst human rights abuses occurred in
China, Nigeria, Cuba and Burma during 1996. Most involved the squelching of
dissent and imprisonment or even killing members of opposition groups.
Freedom of religion, association and the press also were denied. 

Committee members were most critical of the Clinton administration for
maintaining normal trade relations with China and inviting its defense
minister, Gen. Chi Haotian, who led the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, to
visit the United States and the White House last December. 

``The official wining and dining of the Butcher of Beijing is an important
symbol, not only of our government's disastrous one-way love affair with the
brutal Communist government of China, but also of the broader systemic
problem in the relationship between the protection of fundamental human
rights and other goals of foreign and domestic policy,'' Smith said. 

Lawmakers weren't openly critical, however, of Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright's plans to visit China in late February or of Vice President Al Gore
and President Clinton's plans for visits by 1998. 

AP-NY-01-31-97 1634EST