US lawmaker accuses China of genocide ahead of Bush-Hu summit

Wed Apr 19, 9:16 PM ET
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - A senior lawmaker from US President George W. Bush's Republican party accused China of genocide for allegedly conducting forced abortions to phase out indigenous populations in the largely Buddhist Tibet and Muslim Xinjiang regions.

Christopher Smith, chairing a Congressional hearing on human rights abuses in China, slammed the United Nations for backing China's so-called family planning program which he said had been used as a "tool of repression" in the two regions.

"This assistance puts the UN seal of approval on a very coercive population control program which against the Tibetans and certainly against the Uighurs constitutes genocide," said Smith at the hearing of the House of Representatives subcommittee on human rights.

"The genocide definition couldn't be more clear ... when people are targeted in whole or in part because of their ethnicity for destruction," Smith said at the hearing, timed to coincide with Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States.

Bush is under pressure from Congress to put human rights as a priority issue, aside from trade and economic matters, when he holds talks with Hu on Thursday.

Rebiya Kadeer, a top campaigner for the rights of China's Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang, claimed at Wednesday's hearing that the Chinese authorities had stepped up "forced abortions" among locals and encouraged Chinese migrants to move into the region.

Kadeer, who was deported to the United States last year after serving nearly six years of detention in Beijing, spoke about the "horrific accounts of forced, late-term abortions, of forced sterilizations and the extreme physical and psychological traumas inflicted on women as a result of these procedures."

She said if Beijing "continues with this program for the next 20 years, it would result in the Uighurs being wiped out from the face of the Earth."

"It seems to me when there is a systematic effort to displace the Uighurs by using migration policies coupled with family planning policies that included forced abortion, it would seem to rise clearly to that level (genocide)," Smith said.

The International Campaign for Tibet said there is a "major concern" about the way in which birth control policies are implemented in Tibetan areas.

"We know there are quotas imposed for sterilization and abortion which can lead to coercion of women," Kate Saunders, spokeswoman for the International Campaign for Tibet, told AFP. "Lack of education in birth control is a major problem."

Noting that forced abortions by Nazis on Polish women in the 1930's constituted a crime against humanity, Smith said, "it is no less a crime against humanity today when practised by the Chinese against a vast array of women."

Smith also called for international pressure on China to improve its human rights record ahead of its hosting the 2008 Olympics.

He said he was "disappointed" that popular American film director Steven Spielberg would be among high-profile consultants designing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

"It immediately flashed to my mind that the Olympic games are to the Chinese dictatorship what the 1936 Olympic games were to the Nazis -- a chance to put a face on tyranny or somehow gloss over ongoing systematic abuse of human rights and I, for one, was disappointed that he would lend his name and his extraordinary talents to that effort," Smith said.