SUBJECT: China & U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
On Monday, May 1,
the congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom issued its first annual report and recommended that China not
be granted permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with the United States
this year in light of Beijing's increased repression of religious freedom
As the commission report suggests, although the prospect of increased trade under the rules of the World Trade Organization could have a liberalizing long-term effect on China domestically, it is obvious that increased trade has not had that effect so far. To the contrary, the Chinese Government seems more determined than ever to control and eliminate the social and civic institutions (churches, free press, democratic unions, political parties) which are critical for a state to evolve from despotic to liberal rule. If proponents of PNTR for China are in fact interested in the reforming impact WTO membership might have on China, they cannot ignore in good conscience Beijing's determined effort to thwart that effect by eliminating the very institutions which are themselves the engines for political liberalization.