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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended May 07, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 03May00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Commissioner Calls China Peril To Religion
Deseret News 1May00 P2
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- LDS Church member Michael Young and the U.S. Commission on International Relations, of which Young is vice chairman, have called China a peril to religion and recommended that the U.S. government delay awarding China Permanent Normal Trade Relations because of its persecution of religion. Young announced the Commission's decision Monday.

The commission also expressed worry about religious freedom in Russia and urged the U.S. to put more pressure on that country. It noted that religious groups, including the LDS Church have been harrassed in Russia and may face expulsion in some areas under current law. But the commission said the country with the worst religious freedom record is Sudan, where the LDS Church currently doesn't have a presence.

Young's announcement goes against the plans of the White House and conservative Republicans who planned to push for giving China Permanent Normal Trade Relations as China seeks to join the World Trade Organization. Representing the commision, Young said this would send a bad signal, "Many, and I am one, believe in free trade and that engaging China is far more likely to benefit everyone than trying to isolate Beijing," Young told a press conference at the National Press Club. "But we were convinced that for Congress to simply grant China PNTR at this moment, with no significant improvement in the state of religious freedom, would be to send Beijing a signal that these awful, inexcusable, inhumane policies did not require a more immediate response. And this we could not recommend," Young said.

Young's announcement listed several abuses commonly used by China against people seeking to practice religion, including, three-year labor camp sentences without trial, multiyear prison terms, and both men and women beaten to death by police for practicing religion.

Before the U.S. grants Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China, it should, according to Young, open a high-level dialogue with the United States on religious freedom; it should ratify the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights; and it should allow the commission access to imprisoned religious leaders in China.

Young was also careful to say that this was not a permanent recommendation, "We have not said China should not be granted PNTR. We have said that it should make substantial improvements in religious freedom before Congress votes to do so or before PNTR takes effect," he said.


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