BEIJING, Feb 10, 2000 (Reuters) - Six international groups urged the European Union on Thursday to support a resolution at the United Nations critical of China's deteriorating human rights record.
The groups, including London-based Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights in China, asked the EU to follow in the footsteps of the United States and support a resolution critical of China at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in March.
China is conducting "the most ruthless repression of dissent" since the army crushed student-led demonstrations for democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June, 1989, the watchdogs said in a joint statement.
"We firmly believe that there is sufficient indication that China has taken a radical step backwards in the realm of human rights," the statement said.
It noted that China has launched a harsh crackdown on the banned Falun Gong movement and sentenced labour, political and spiritual activists and Tibetan religious leaders to prison terms of up to 18 years.
China banned Falun Gong last year declaring it an "evil cult." The movement involves a mishmash of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and breathing exercises designed to harness energy in the body and heal.
Jittery Chinese authorities have jailed more than a dozen Falun Gong leaders, but defiant adherents have staged bold, almost daily protests in Tiananmen Square this month.
"The European Union has a significant role to play," the statement said. "We are seriously questioning the substitution of quiet diplomacy for multilateral pressure as a way to effectively improve the human rights situation" in China.
Last year, the United States pushed for a critical resolution at the Geneva commission, but it failed to attract European support and was quashed.
In 1998 the United States, citing improvements in China's rights record, did not support such a resolution, but it had done so in previous years.
The statement said dialogue with China was not enough.
"Dialogue must not become an end in itself," the statement said. "Dialogue without pressure in the face of persistent gross violations of human rights is simply appeasement and degrades the authority of international human rights standards."
Last month Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Guangya warned the United States bilateral human rights dialogue would suffer a serious setback if Washington censured Beijing at the commission.
The dialogue was suspended last May after NATO bombed Beijing's embassy in Belgrade during the war over Kosovo. NATO and the United States said the bombing was a mistake.
Wang said the plan to censure China's human rights record in Geneva was without justification and doomed to failure. He accused anti-China forces of using human rights as an excuse to undermine China's political stability and development.
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