WASHINGTON — The State Department no longer considers China one of the world’s worst human rights violators, according to its annual human rights report released Tuesday, a decision that immediately earned the ire of human rights groups.
In the annual report on more than 190 countries, the State Department did say that China’s “overall human rights record remained poor” in 2007. China, the report said, tightened media and Internet curbs and increased controls on religious freedom in Tibet and the Xinjiang region. The report said China’s abuses also included “extrajudicial killings, torture and coerced confessions of prisoners, and the use of forced labor.”
But the report dropped China from a list of 10 countries that it deemed the worst offenders: North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.
At a news conference, Jonathan D. Farrar, acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, did not answer questions about why China was dropped from the list. “I think the report highlights that generally the human rights record remains poor,” he said.
When asked repeatedly why China was dropped from the list of worst abusers, and whether that had anything to do with the Beijing Olympics this summer, Mr. Farrar said: “I would say China is listed under a section dealing with authoritarian countries undergoing economic reform where the democratic political reform has not kept pace. And that is a completely accurate assessment.”
The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders denounced the decision. “This decision was announced even as it was learned that some one hundred Tibetan monks have been arrested and Chinese authorities are refusing to release activist Hu Jia and dozens of other freedom of expression advocates,” the organization said in a statement. “U.S. authorities are depriving themselves of yet another effective way to pressure China, without having achieved any good-will gesture from Beijing.”
Other critics said that the United States would do well to look closer to home when gauging human rights abuses.
Amnesty International USA complained that the Bush administration was giving lip service to human rights around the world, while ignoring abuses by allies of the United States.
“It is also shocking to read the horrific record of what amounts to torture and cruel treatment of individuals held by allies of the United States in the war on terror, knowing that the U.S. government has sent people to those countries for interrogation through its extraordinary renditions program,” the executive director of Amnesty International USA, Larry Cox, said in a statement.
• Original title: U.S. Drops China From List of Top 10 Violators of Rights