July 20, 1998
As the Congress again takes up the matter of accepting or rejecting the President's waiver regarding the extension of favored trade relations to the People's Republic of China, I write to express the views of the United States Catholic Conference in this regard.
Each time over the past several years when the issue has arisen, it has been our conviction that the Administration--both present and previous--has been insufficiently committed to pressing the Chinese authorities on their systemic violations of certain fundamental human rights. We have cited the persecution of religious groups, such as the unregistered Protestant and Catholic churches, the Buddhists of Tibet and others. We have raised the questions of the one-child policy and of coerced abortion, and have noted the widespread practice of using conscript labor for many of China's manufactured products, among other well-documented charges.
We acknowledge that President Clinton made a significant effort to raise these issues during his recent state visit to China, and we applaud that. But little, if anything, has changed on the human rights front since the visit. Indeed, the continued arrest and detention of democracy advocates there only point up the necessity for unrelenting official U.S. firmness on issues of human rights and religious freedom.
The Most Favored Nation debate may not be the best forum, but it does offer the Congress an important opportunity to raise the priority of human rights and religious liberty. Therefore, we urge the Congress to send the Administration as clear a message as possible by voting in large numbers to overturn the President's waiver of applying the relevant sanctions of the Trade Act of 1974. A strong vote to deny MFN status to China should strengthen the Administration's commitment to putting human rights at the top of the China agenda and send a strong signal that the status quo is not acceptable.
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Catholic Conference