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China seeking to head off rights censure

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GENEVA -- Even before the start of this year's meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which begins a six-week session on Monday, China has begun a vigorous campaign to head off possible censure of its human rights record.

The Clinton administration has yet to indicate whether it will sponsor such a resolution, but it is under increased pressure to do so, as both houses of Congress voted unanimously last month to condemn China at this year's meeting.China's agreement to engage in dialogue on human rights averted an anti-Beijing resolution from the 53-member commission last year. But China has drawn renewed disapproval recently by rounding up members of outlawed opposition parties and religious dissidents, torturing prisoners, discriminating against its Christian minority and imposing restrictions on the press.

Along with China, a number of other countries -- including Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Congo, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan -- also are likely to come under scrutiny by the commission.

The organization's strength lies in casting a moral spotlight on countries that are not living up to commitments made under international treaties that recognize a broad array of political, economic, social and cultural rights.