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
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.