Accessibility links

Breaking News

China: U.S. Senate Leader Concerned About Summit

Washington, 16 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The leader of the United States Senate says the Chinese government is trying to dictate the terms of President Bill Clinton's upcoming summit in Beijing.

Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott told a news conference in Washington on Monday that U.S. lawmakers continue to be concerned about Clinton's visit. The June 25 through July 3 trip is the first of a U.S. president to China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.

Hundreds of people were killed during the assault by the Chinese army on unarmed civilians, many of them students campaigning for greater democracy and human rights.

Lott said: "I'm really worried that the president is being finessed or maneuvered by the Chinese and how this trip is going to be handled."

In particular, the Mississippi senator said he is worried that Clinton will not have a sufficient opportunity to express concern to Beijing about Chinese human rights violations and its curbing of religious freedoms.

Lott said there is a long list of serious problems with China. He added: "But so far, it looks like the Chinese are really winning the battle in how this summit is being planned."

Lott said the Chinese have even insisted that Clinton not visit any other countries, going or coming, to China.

He said: "The Chinese have been trying to dictate everything that happens, and I think that it is being set up to be a real problem for the United States."

At the White House, spokesman Michael McCurry said Lott's views were "not accurate." He said the White House would be happy to brief the Senate leader about the summit preparations.

Asked whether Clinton would talk with Chinese political dissidents during his visit, McCurry would only say that the president would see a "cross-section" of the Chinese society.

Critics of Clinton's trip do not want the president to visit China or, at the minimum, they urge him to stay away from Tiananmen Square. They say such a visit could be viewed as legitimizing the crackdown.

Clinton has defended the trip as "the right thing to do" for America. He also promised to press Chinese President Jiang Zemin on human rights, environmental problems, weapons proliferation, crime, drug trafficking and open trade.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, also defended Clinton's China trip in a Washington speech today.

Richardson said: "Let there be no doubt: Our influence with China will not be enhanced through a policy of confrontation and isolation -- as some have argued."

The U.S. ambassador said America must continue its dialogue with China. He said that is the only way to ensure that the United States "plays a key role moving the world's most populous nation toward the path of stability, openness, prosperity and international responsibility."

Richardson said that Clinton will press the Chinese government to do more by seeking controls on the export of missile technology and chemical and biological weapons.

The U.S. envoy pointed out that China is America's fifth largest trading partner and one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services.

But Richardson also said the issue of human rights "will be front and center" of Clinton's agenda.

He said China will remain "on the wrong side of history" as long as Chinese leaders deny its people basic religious and political freedoms and restrict the cultural, religious and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people. In a related development, a crowd filled a plaza near the U.S. Congress on Monday. Some urged Clinton to call off his trip because of China's occupation of Tibet.

Several members of Congress addressed the gathering. The rally came following a two-day weekend Tibet concert in Washington by some of the world's top rock stars that attracted more than 120,000 people.

Adam Yauch, a member of the rock group Beastie Boys, told a news conference in a tent jammed full of photographers, reporters and fans that Clinton should make an appeal for talks between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetans.

Wei Jingsheng, released from a total of 18 years in Chinese prison last year in connection with Jiang's visit to the United States, said those who seek freedom still suffer imprisonment and torture in China.

Wei said: "This is a problem for all of us living on this earth."