WASHINGTON (June 25, 1997) -- An advisor to the Bishops on international affairs today expressed disappointment that the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a one-year extension of Most Favored Nation status for China and criticized the Clinton Administration and Congress for failing adequately to address religious persecution in China.
"We are disappointed that the House of Representatives failed to vote yesterday to revoke Most Favored Nation trading status for the People's Republic of China," said Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace at the U. S. Catholic Conference. "The MFN vote was not the best tool to address the severe human rights and religious persecution issues in China, but it was the only one to draw the attention of politicians and bring about serious debate on China's offensive policies."
Despite pressure from various religious and human rights organizations, the House voted 259-173 yesterday to grant China a one-year extension of its MFN trading status. The number of members voting no was the largest it has been since 1990, following the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
Bishop Theodore E. McCarrick, chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee, sent a letter to members of the House last week voicing the concern of the Catholic Bishops regarding the situation in China. He said, "The U.S. must reorder its priorities in China policy insisting that protecting the rights of believers, workers and dissidents is at least as important as combating the piracy of CDs and videos."
Father Christiansen was critical of both the Administration and Congress for failing to advance "a credible policy for addressing religious persecution in China. Yet, religious persecution and discrimination continue and have intensified in recent years. The dramatically worsened condition of Chinese Catholics since 1995 gives the lie to the belief that trade alone will bring democracy and human rights to Asia."
"The Congress did not stand aside when Soviet Jews wanted to emigrate in the 1970s and 80s or when priests, nuns, and lay Catholics were murdered in Central America in the 1980s," Father Christiansen said. "It ought not to stand by in the '90s while Chinese Catholics and Evangelicals, Buddhists and Muslims suffer for their beliefs."
Father Christiansen said the members of the U.S. Catholic Conference stand ready to work with public officials to find "suitable remedies for China's persecuted believers."