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"UN urges reform; China threatens sect "

by Paul Eckert ("Boston Globe," February 27, 2001)

BEIJING - UN human rights chief Mary Robinson urged China yesterday at landmark talks on sensitive penal system reforms to scrap the ''reeducation through labor'' system it has used to lock away dissidents.
Hours later the Communist Party called for the ''complete elimination'' of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which it banned as a cult in 1999 and against which ''reeducation through labor'' has been a key weapon.
''If the cult is not removed ... the process of China's reform, opening-up, and socialist modernization drive will be affected,'' said an editorial in today's People's Daily, issued through Xinhua news agency.
Xinhua said the government cited 110 organizations and 271 individuals for anti-Falun Gong work in a move underscoring national resolve ''to wipe out the cancer of Falun Gong from society.''
The official statements did not unveil new policies in China's 19-month battle against Falun Gong, which has provoked strong international concern about violations of religious freedom and civil rights.
Earlier yesterday, Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, opened a two-day seminar on punishment of minor crimes in Beijing, calling for ''a serious review leading to the abolition'' of the extrajudicial labor camp program.
''The concept of using forced labor as a punishment is against the accepted international human rights principles embodied in many international instruments,'' Robinson told Chinese officials and legal specialists.
Falun Gong representatives say 5,000 members of the spiritual group are undergoing reeducation labor in harsh conditions.
Robinson's remarks echoed demands by Western human rights activists and some Chinese legal specialists who say the 45-year practice of sending people to labor camps without trial or due process spawns widespread abuses, including arbitrary detention.
Calls to abolish labor camps go beyond China's official recommendation of reforms that would add judicial review to the process.
Sophia Woodman, research director for the New York-based Human Rights in China, cautioned that academic talk of reform ''doesn't mean that the security ministries have changed their point of view.''
Human Rights in China issued a report last week that quoted Chinese sources as saying 260,000 people were in labor camps, 60 percent for the catchall offense of ''disturbing public order.''
There was no direct Chinese reaction to Robinson's call

"Beijing, Turning Tables, Defends Its Repression of Sect"

by Erik Eckholm ("The New York Times," February 27, 2001)

BEIJING - The Chinese government lashed out today in frustration against critics of its harsh crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, making strenuous new efforts to paint the group as evil and murderous, and accusing the United States and other critics of harboring "ulterior motives."
The government also responded angrily to the State Department report on Monday that condemned China's rights record in 2000, and issued its own counterreport, "U.S. Human Rights Record in 2000." It detailed, for example, the large number of deaths by gunfire, the role of big money in election campaigns and the growth in the American prison population.
China is trying to polish its human rights image in part to aid its bid to play host to the 2008 Olympics.
Today the United Nations commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, who is visiting Beijing, said officials had indicated that China might ratify the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as early as Wednesday. But it was not clear, she said, whether China would fully accept the most sensitive clause, on free labor unions.
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Ms. Robinson made a special plea on grounds of compassion for the release of a prominent democracy advocate, Xu Wenli, who was sentenced in 1998 to 13 years in prison and is said to be ill with hepatitis. She said Mr. Tang had promised to "look into it."
At a news conference specially called today by the State Council, China's cabinet, the head of a new anticult office likened the outlawed Falun Gong to an "illegal drug addiction," with similar deadly risks to practitioners and society.
"Tens of thousands of families have been destroyed" by the practice of Falun Gong, said the official, Liu Jing, chief of the office for the prevention and handling of cults. The office was established last fall as demonstrations by unrepentant members continued unabated.
Falun Gong, started in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former low-level official now living in the United States, attracted millions of Chinese with its blend of traditional meditative techniques and promises of spiritual salvation and physical well-being. It was outlawed in July 1999 after the group staged an audacious demonstration outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition.
The widely reported harassment, arrests and beatings of Falun Gong followers have attracted growing international censure, a source of great frustration to Chinese officials, who say that other countries have also taken decisive, even violent actions to control "evil cults" and that the critics apply a double standard.
In meetings with senior officials here over the last two days and in a briefing for reporters, Ms. Robinson described her deep concern over the manner in which the crackdown on Falun Gong has been conducted.
"I emphasized that it's important to bear in mind at all times that individual Falun Gong members have human rights that must be respected," she said.
"It is very clear that the rights of individual members are being violated," she told reporters after an international meeting on China's system of "re-education through labor." That system, under which police authorities can send people accused of minor crimes to labor camps for up to three years with no judicial oversight, has reportedly been used to detain thousands of Falun Gong believers.
Ms. Robinson said she told China's justice minister that if China is to comply with internationally accepted standards of civil rights, as it says it intends to, then the labor re-education system must be abolished.
"There is no due process," she said at the briefing. "The system is inherently arbitrary."
She said the minister, Zhang Fusen, defended the system — which is often used to jail drug users, prostitutes and petty criminals as well as political and religious dissidents — as an important tool for rehabilitating people. But he did say it was open to improvement, Ms. Robinson said. Parliament is currently discussing how to revise the law governing labor re-education.
Mr. Liu, the head of the anticult office, would neither confirm nor deny estimates by rights monitors that 5,000 or more Falun Gong adherents had been taken to labor re- education camps. But he painted a radically different picture of those prison farms than is usually given by former inmates.
"The legitimate rights of people receiving re-education through labor are fully guaranteed by law," he said. The camps are governed by principles of "education, persuasion and redemption," he added, and inmates are treated "like teachers treat students, like doctors treat patients, like parents treat their children."
Mr. Liu also would not comment directly on reports that more than 100 Falun Gong members have died in police custody, instead changing the subject to what he called the high toll the "evil cult" had exacted.
By government estimates, more than 136 practitioners had committed suicide — seeking a path to heaven "at the instigation of Li Hongzhi's heresies," Mr. Liu said — even before the group was outlawed in July 1999. At least 103 more have killed themselves since then, he said, including a woman who died in a group self-immolation last month in Tiananmen Square.
Counting those who have died because they refused to seek medical care, believing Falun Gong's mystical powers would cure them, the movement has caused 1,660 deaths, Mr. Liu asserted.
Falun Gong leaders insist that the founder and spiritual master, Mr. Li, has never called on practitioners to commit suicide, that in fact he forbids it, and that he has not demanded that followers forgo medical treatment.
Of followers known to have died of illness, the government has not tried to determine how many were attracted to the spiritual movement as a last desperate measure after they had already been diagnosed with terminal cancers or other diseases.

"Falun Gong's Challenge to China"

by Phil Hall ("Film Threat," February 27, 2001)

2001, Un-rated, 56min, Globalvision (2/27/2001)
During the past two years, the government of Communist China has waged an extraordinary and brutal campaign against the practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritualist movement which combines physical and meditative exercises with basic tenets of Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. Although Falun Gong does not advocate a political agenda and has never made any attempt to disrupt the political or economic balance in China, it has been accused of plotting to overthrow the Chinese government and its followers have been subjected to imprisonment and torture. As of this writing, at least 85 Falun Gong followers have died while in Chinese jails.
"Falun Gong's Challenge to China" is a remarkable new documentary which traces the history and principles of Falun Gong and tries to make sense of why the Chinese government is waging such a vicious campaign against the movement. Using videotapes, audio recordings and photographs smuggled out of China, plus broadcast clips from TV news coverage around the world, the film offers a story which will boil the blood of anyone who lives by the principles of intelligence and decency. In many ways, this is the most important documentary in release today, for it calls to attention not only the horrendous human rights situation in China but also how the so-called civilized democracies of the world have barely registered a peep of protest against this egregious state of affairs.
Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. Originally, the movement was widely accepted and promoted by the Chinese government since Falun Gong's focus on physical well-being led to significant savings in the beleaguered Chinese health care system when thousands of practitioners began to experience a new sense of wellness. Over time, however, the paranoia which infected the Communist Chinese government ever since its founding in 1949 began to take hold and alarms went off when an informal government survey found that nearly one-third of the Chinese population considered themselves to be Falun Gong followers. In 1998, the government reversed its acceptance of Falun Gong and began to use the state-run media to launch shrill and frequently idiotic propaganda to discredit the movement and its founder. The tactic failed totally, and the frustrated government banned Falun Gong as an "evil cult" and compared Li Hongzhi to Hitler (Li now lives in exile in New York). Peaceful and non-violent demonstrations by Falun Gong members began to spread, gaining embarrassing media coverage by US and international TV crews. The Chinese government reacted with widescale police attacks on the demonstrators and sweeping arrests; to date, at least 50,000 people are known to be arrested because of their association with Falun Gong.
"Falun Gong's Challenge to China" produces heartbreaking photographic evidence of the worst of the Chinese prison system in its torture of Falun Gong followers. Also included are interviews with two Chinese-born American citizens and Falun Gong believes who were arrested and imprisoned in China, one of whom was forced into slave labor making brushes for export to the US. The Chinese government side of the story is also presented: the film features segments from a "60 Minutes" interview with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who blandly brushes aside Mike Wallace's questions on the Falun Gong crackdown, and an ABC "Nightline" interview where Ted Koppel is blithely informed by a Chinese diplomat that his charges about attacks on Falun Gong members are not true.
"Falun Gong's Challenge to China" offers input from human rights groups ranging from Amnesty International to Freedom House on the situation in China and also includes commentary from ordinary Falun Gong practitioners (both Chinese and non-Chinese) who try to explain what they've gained from their practice. Conspicuously absent from the film is input from Western governments who have been strangely mute during the past decade in questioning why the Chinese government is waging war on its own people. Perhaps the greatest outrage here is the revelation that President Jiang was congratulated by President Clinton for defanging Mike Wallace in the "60 Minutes" interview. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton accused George Bush of "kowtowing" to the Chinese government...but during his eight years in the White House, Bill Clinton went beyond kowtowing into performing political fellatio on the Communist Chinese hierarchy without bothering to feel the pain of those abused and killed by the Chinese government.
Filmmaker Danny Schechter (who has also written a companion book by the same title which is now in stores via Akashic Books) tells a tragic story in "Falun Gong's Challenge to China." However, the story is not over by any stretch. Despite its heavy-handed efforts, the Chinese government has failed to stop Falun Gong from being practiced in China and non-violent protestors continue to make their presence seen in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Serious news coverage on the Falun Gong crackdown is gaining in prominence and the movement itself has spread beyond China's borders to 40 different countries and an estimated 100 million followers. Falun Gong web sites proliferate, despite clumsy attempts by the Chinese government to hack them offline.
As a study in the human spirit, "Falun Gong's Challenge to China" ultimately provides a resounding message of hope. As a film, it is a towering achievement which must be seen.

"China Likens Crackdown On Falun Gong To War On Drugs"

(AP, February 27, 2001)

BEIJING --In an unbending defense of China's widely criticized crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, a government anti-cult official said Tuesday that the group acts like a "spiritual drug" on its followers and that labor camp guards treat imprisoned practitioners as doctors would patients. Liu Jing, head of a Cabinet office formed in September to coordinate the nationwide campaign against Falun Gong, also assailed U.S. officials for criticizing China's relentless 19-month crackdown on the group.
"They choose to turn a blind eye to the dangers and harm caused by the Falun Gong cult," Liu said at a news conference. "This shows they are using this issue to make a fuss and using human rights as a pretense to interfere in other countries affairs."
Liu did not directly address questions about whether practitioners have died in custody or about how many have been sent to labor camps.
But he dismissed as rumor claims by Falun Gong and rights groups that more than 100 followers have been killed. He said followers are not sent to labor camps merely for practicing Falun Gong but for committing crimes such as protesting.
Labor camps have helped practitioners, "wake up from their addiction to the cult and return to a normal state of mind," he said. "In reeducation through labor, we have the following saying: Act as teachers do with their students, as doctors do with patients, as parents do with their children."
Falun Gong claims 5,000 of its members have been sent without trial to labor camps, that scores have been tortured and abused in custody and that 155 have been killed - a tally that rises by the week.
The United Nations' top human rights official, Mary Robinson, said Tuesday she has raised concerns about China's treatment of Falun Gong followers during her current visit to Beijing. Her office has received "many" complaints of ill-treatment, torture and heavy sentences, she said.
"My message is they have human rights that must be respected," she said in an interview. "The issue I want to focus on is actual treatment of individuals."
But Liu, head of the State Council Office for the Prevention and Handling of Cults, said Robinson was ill-informed.
"I think her problem is that she really doesn't understand the Falun Gong cult," Liu said of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Liu said Falun Gong was as much of a social menace as drugs. The group has destroyed tens of thousands of families and killed 1,660 people, many of them "obsessive practitioners" who eschewed modern medicine, he said.
"The Falun Gong cult is like a spiritual drug. It does as much harm to its practitioners, particularly those devout practitioners, as drugs," he said.

"Falun Gong followers confined in Chinese Asylums"

("CWN News," February 27, 2001)

LONDON - The Chinese government is waging a campaign to discredit and eliminate the Falun Gong spiritualist movement, interring obstinate members in mental asylums, according to Robin Munro, a senior research fellow at the Law Department and Center for Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, in a 130-page study entitled Judicial Psychiatry in China and its Political Abuses.
Munro states that the Ministry of Public Security in China runs a network of special hospitals to house the criminally insane and in which political opponents are incarcerated, and now the members of the banned Falun Gong movement are being treated in the same way. Munro adds that this system was copied from the former Soviet Union.
In his study, published in the Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Munro notes that before Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, China's political use of psychiatric confinement had declined significantly.
Observers say the institutes are examples of the worst abuse and violence. Human rights activists have called on the World Psychiatric Association to censure or suspend China at next year's meeting of the World Psychological Association.
The system of confining political dissidents in asylums was used in the last decade of Mao Tse Tung's regime (1966-76) and then put aside by the Communist authorities. With the explosion of Falun Gong it has been exhumed. Munro mentions the case of Cao Maobing, a silk worker in Jiangsu province who protested against corruption of public officials and tried to organize an independent trade union. He was taken to a mental asylum and given electric-shock treatment. The report says that hundreds of Falun Gong followers are being treated in the same way. "Sane or insane, these people have committed no criminal offenses by international standards," Munro says.
Recently Bishop Joseph Zen, coadjutor of Hong Kong, said what is happening to Falun Gong could easily extend to Christians. "If they identify criticism of the government with evil, then the unofficial Catholic Church in China could be in danger of being called an evil cult." Along with Bishop Zen, five Catholic organizations and seven Protestant groups have expressed concern for the violent repression of Falun Gong followers.

"US rights report attacks China"

by Greg Torode ("South China Morning Post," February 27, 2001)

The new administration of President George W. Bush early this morning (Hong Kong time) launched its first significant criticism of China's human rights record, warning of a worsening situation on the mainland. On the strength of the report, Michael Parmly, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, confirmed the US would sponsor a censure motion against Beijing at next month's annual UN human rights meeting in Geneva.
An expanded section on China in the State Department's annual report on human rights noted intensified crackdowns against political dissent, the Falun Gong movement and in Tibet. In general, freedom of religious expression had "deteriorated markedly". "The Government's poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses," the report said.
"The constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights; however, these protections often are ignored in practice. Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings, the use of torture, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, the mistreatment of prisoners, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process."
It cited reports that more than 100 Falun Gong followers may have died in police custody, the victims of torture and beatings.
It estimated that several thousand people are in detention for political and religious reasons that violate international human rights covenants.
The report also detailed efforts to keep the media and Internet under tight control and violence being used to suppress protests.
Despite the at-times bleak portrayal, the report appeared geared to striking a balance with general improvements under China's economic reforms.
Despite government abuses "many Chinese had more individual choice, greater access to information and expanded economic opportunity", it noted prominently.
The report also said the Government was now removed from the daily lives of many ordinary people. But it cited official efforts to make the judiciary more accountable and independent and the police more professional.
"Senior officials openly acknowledged abuses such as using torture to extort confessions and admitted that extorting favours from suspects and nepotism remained serious problems," it said.
The efforts at balance reflect rewriting efforts by the new Bush team.
Much of the report was completed in draft before the presidential election process ended in December.
China has yet to comment formally on the State Department report.

"1,600 honoured in 'victory' over sect"

by Raymond Li ("South China Morning Post," February 27, 2001)

China yesterday issued awards to about 1,600 participants in the crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, and announced "a great victory" over the sect. "The party and Government in accordance with the will of the people have taken a series of important and resolute measures and led the entire nation in staunchly struggling against the evil Falun Gong cult," Politburo member Li Lanqing said on television. "We have won a great victory," he told a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.
The crackdown was necessary, Mr Li said, as the outlawed group was "a cancer destroying human civilisation, violating human rights, harming society and bringing calamity to the nation and people". While proclaiming victory, Mr Li said that the fight against the group would continue to be "a complicated, sharp and long-term" one.
The ceremony for awarding 110 "advanced collectives" and 271 people engaged in the crackdown was presided over by Communist Party leaders Ding Guangen, in charge of propaganda, and Luo Gan, the party chief who oversees law and order.
Award winners, sporting large paper roses pinned to their chests, were seen glumly listening to Mr Li's speech. Many were from the police or military. The 19-month crackdown on the Falun Gong has resulted in several hundred practitioners being sentenced to up to 18 years in prison, while at least 10,000 have been placed without trial in re-education-through-labour camps, human rights group say.
About 120 Falun Gong followers are known to have died in police custody, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has reported.
In his address, Mr Li denied that Falun Gong followers were being mistreated, rejected or discriminated against by the Government, maintaining that only a small number of ringleaders and stubborn followers were being dealt with as criminals.
"From the high perspective of responsibility for the people and humanitarianism, we have made great efforts to educate and save them [ordinary followers], while shining the light of reason, compassion and understanding for the law," Mr Li said.
In a related development, the China Securities News reported yesterday that the mainland had released new software to filter out Falun Gong's information on the Internet.
The software, called Internet Police 110 (the number people dial to reach police), was released nationwide yesterday, according to the newspaper.
The software is designed to block access to Internet sites promoting Falun Gong and similar organisations labelled cults.
Meanwhile, Thai Falun Gong followers have cancelled plans to hold an international conference in Bangkok during April. The decision follows pressure on the group by the ethnic Chinese community in Thailand and the Thai Government, which said it did not want to harm its relations with China. Falun Gong organisers said yesterday they cancelled the conference to avoid social divisiveness in Thailand.

"Robinson clashes over Falun Gong in China"

by Jeremy Page (Reuters, February 27, 2001)

BEIJING - Visiting U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson clashed publicly on Tuesday with a Chinese official over Beijing's treatment of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Liu Jing, head of a new cabinet anti-cult office, accused Robinson of ignorance.
"I think her problem is that she has too little understanding of the Falun Gong cult," he told a news conference, comparing members to drug addicts.
But Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, stood her ground.
"It's very clear that the human rights of Falun Gong members are being transgressed at the moment here in China," she told a separate news conference hours later.
"My message is that it is important for the Chinese authorities to bear in mind at all times that individual Falun Gong members have human rights that must be respected regardless of how China approaches Falun Gong itself," she said.
Robinson urged China this week to scrap its re-education through labour system, used to punish many Falun Gong followers without trial since the group was banned in 1999.
China's 19-month battle with the group has sparked international concern about violations of religious freedom and civil liberties, and was highlighted in a U.S. State Department rights report issued on Monday.
The People's Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, ran an editorial on Tuesday calling for the "complete elimination" of Falun Gong.
"The Falun Gong cult is the same as a spiritual drug," Liu said. "It does as much harm to its practitioners, especially the devout ones, as drugs."
He accused the United States of using the issue to interfere in China's internal affairs.
Falun Gong was responsible for the deaths of 1,660 people, of whom 139 had committed suicide as a result of the "heresies" of its U.S.-based leader Li Hongzhi, Liu said.
Liu also denied reports by human rights groups that more than 100 Falun Gong followers had died in custody in mainland China.
"This is simply an old trick played by Li Hongzhi and the Falun Gong cult," Liu said. "They always spread rumours and confuse black and white."
Falun Gong, which is based on elements of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese meditation and exercises, says none of the Chinese accusations is true and it is a non-political movement aimed only at improving people.
Liu accused the United States of making "wanton accusations" about China's crackdown on Falun Gong.
Washington, which will propose a resolution censuring China at a U.N. rights meeting in Geneva next month, was "turning a blind eye to the danger and harm caused by Li Hongzhi, and a deaf ear to the heretical fallacies preached by Li Hongzhi."
"This can only prove their real motive is to capitalise on this issue to use human rights as a pretext to interfere in other countries' internal affairs," Liu said.
The cabinet information centre also distributed a glossy pamphlet laying out the official version of how five purported Falun Gong followers set fire to themselves on Tiananmen Square last month.
One died and the rest are still in a serious condition in hospital.
"According to the police investigation, the incident was a shocking and absurd action taken by 'Falun Gong' practitioners who had been incited and spiritually controlled by Li Hongzhi in the hope of reaching 'fulfilment' and going to the 'heavenly kingdom'," the pamphlet said.

"China hits back after rights record criticism"

by Paul Eckert (Reuters, February 27, 2001)

BEIJING - China clashed publicly with visiting U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson on Tuesday over the Falun Gong, dismissed her call to scrap labour camps and called Washington hypocritical for saying Beijing's human rights record worsened last year.
Besieged by criticism on all fronts -- from Washington, the United Nations as well as many human rights groups as it bids to hold the 2008 Olympic Games -- China launched a multi-front counterattack.
It was scornful of Robinson's call for the abolition of labour camps to which drug users, prostitutes, dissidents and members of Falun Gong group can be sent without trial for up to three years.
It was scathing on the U.S. State Department annual human rights report and shot back with a long report on social ills in the United States.
"This is a typical action showing U.S. double standards on human rights," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement which accused Washington of "going so far as to defend openly the anti-humanity evil cult Falun Gong."
A cabinet official said China's "re-education through labour" camps were a compassionate means of dealing with social problems and likened its campaign against the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement to a war on drugs.
"The authorities treat those people receiving re-education like teachers treat students, like doctors treat patients and like parents treat children," said Liu Jing, head of the State Council Office for Prevention and Handling of Cults.
"I think her problem is that she has too little understanding of the Falun Gong cult," Liu said of Robinson's call to abolish the labour camps, said to hold some 5,000 Falun Gong members.
"The Falun Gong cult is the same as a spiritual drug," he told a news conference. "It does as much harm to its practitioners, especially the devout ones, as drugs."
But Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, held her ground.
"It's very clear that the human rights of Falun Gong members are being transgressed at the moment here in China," she told a news conference on Tuesday.
"My message is that it is important for the Chinese authorities to bear in mind at all times that individual Falun Gong members have human rights that must be respected regardless of how China approaches Falun Gong itself," she said.
Robinson began her visit on Monday by urging eventual abolition of the labour camp system that has been a key weapon in China's crackdown on Falun Gong.
She told Chinese officials and legal experts the system violated "accepted international human rights principles."
Robinson told reporters Justice Minister Zhang Fusen listened to her views but defended the 45-year-old forced labour system.
"He did say that the system could be improved and needed to be looked at," she said. "But I definitely got the sense he was defending the system."
The Falun Gong movement says 5,000 members of the spiritual group banned in China since 1999 are in re-education through labour camps.
They are among 260,000 held in 300 labour camps, according to Chinese data compiled by Human Rights in China, which argues that the system should be scrapped, not reformed.
The New York-based rights group said in a report that camp conditions were "generally abusive, with overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions, inadequate food and excessive working hours."
The U.S. report, an annual source of friction, summed up a year of tough curbs on religious freedom and political dissent by saying China's "poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses."
It condemned China's crackdowns on underground Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong, as well as harsh treatment of political dissent.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied: "Anyone can see that China's human rights situation is the best of any time in history."
A Western diplomat said each side had a point.
"If you look at the broad trends over 20 years, things are clearly positive, but if you take a snapshot of 2000, many areas clearly went downhill," said the diplomat.
The human rights issue has gained unprecedented prominence this month with an Olympic inspection of Beijing's bid for the 2008 Games, rights groups' new allegations of China abuses and Robinson's visit.
In what has become an annual event, China's cabinet issued a lengthy denunciation of U.S. rights problems.
"Well-informed people know that the so-called democracy has been nothing more than a fairy tale since the United States was founded more than 200 years ago," it said.
The State Department, whose report also noted expanded economic opportunities and personal choice in China, also said on Monday Washington would again sponsor a motion at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva next month faulting Beijing's record.
China, by diplomatic manoeuvres, has avoided even a vote on the resolution in recent years but human rights groups and members of Congress have urged the George W. Bush administration to avoid letting China undermine the Geneva process.
Robinson said China was likely to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Wednesday.
But she said it would be "extremely disappointing" if China placed reservations on the article enshrining the right to independent trade unions, which Beijing bans.

What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne


CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors

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