December 9, 2002

Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), opened the U.S. Agency for International Development's Democracy & Governance Partners Conference in Washington on December 5 by emphasizing the Bush administration's commitment to democracy and human rights.

Reflecting on accomplishments during the DRL bureau's 25 year history, Craner noted the increasing number of democracies in the world and the "awakening of the idea that the values upon which a democracy is founded are rooted in the basic tenets of fairness, respect and
human dignity." The evidence continues to mount, he said, that "democracy is not a foreign import or imposition but an inspiration to men and women -- from Mongolia to Mali to Mexico -- who work for change within their own societies."

Acknowledging ongoing challenges and opportunities to expand protections for human rights and democratic participation across the globe, Craner drew particular attention to new "democratic frontiers" in the Middle East, Central Asia and China.

Regarding China, Craner said, "The third area I want to discuss is China, where the government suppresses political or religious groups that it views as a threat to its power. Unregistered church members, China Democracy Party activists, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, Falun Gong practitioners -- all have been subjected to harassment or arrest. Conditions in China's prisons and labor camps are harsh and implementation of the laws that exist is frighteningly arbitrary. The government severely limits freedom of expression and information, including Internet content and access -- most recently shutting down Internet search engines."

Safeguarding democracy, he stated, means "working at home and abroad in partnership with other governments and nongovernmental groups to create the conditions that make healthy, strong and vibrant societies in which ordinary citizens flourish and tyrants and terrorists cannot thrive."

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.Department of State. Website: