(Voice of America) Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress Wednesday the United States is likely to sponsor a resolution critical of China at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He spoke as the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the Bush administration to take such action at the U.N. meeting, which opens in Geneva March 15.
The United States broke with an informal tradition last year by not sponsoring a China resolution, hoping that Beijing would carry on with what U.S. officials said was "incremental but unprecedented" human rights progress in 2002.
But the State Department, in its annual human rights report last week, said China regressed on the human rights front last year, citing among other things, arrests of democracy activists and continued repression of Tibetans and [practitioners] of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
In testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary Powell said he has yet to make a recommendation to President Bush on the issue of a China resolution, but he left little doubt as to what the decision will be.
"We are disappointed by the back-sliding we have seen in the area of human rights in China over the past year," he said. "We've taken this up directly with Chinese authorities. I've spoken with my colleague about it, and we have engaged the Chinese at every level. Assistant Secretary Lorne Craner has been at it again in recent weeks. And we'll be making a decision within the next week or so. And they have not improved on their human rights record in the way that we were expecting, and that kind of gives you some sense of the direction we're heading."
Mr. Powell spoke shortly after the House of Representatives, by an overwhelming vote of 402-2, approved a resolution calling on the Bush administration to support a China measure in Geneva.
The chief sponsor of the non-binding measure, New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, said China has used parliamentary maneuvers in the U.N. commission six times in the past to block language critical of its rights record. But he said the United States has a "moral duty and obligation" to raise issue anyway.
Another supporter, Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, said the U.S. decision last year not to press a resolution critical of China was a "profound mistake" that was taken by China as a sign of weakness.
At the hearing, ostensibly on the State Department budget, Mr. Powell said he had "no illusions about the nature of the Chinese regime."
But he also said the Bush administration has been able to speak "openly and candidly" with Chinese leaders over differences on human rights and weapons proliferation, and they have worked together on others, including North Korea and its nuclear program.