UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Office of the Press Secretary
(Xian, People's Republic of China)
For Immediate Release                          June 26, 1998  

Shangri-la Hotel Xian, People's Republic of China

4:08 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon. One program note before I bring Sandy up. During the course of the tour, the very interesting tour the President had of the Terra Cotta Warriors, your print pooler was with him and had an opportunity to talk to the President afterwards, so you're going to get a pool report that has him commenting with some color on his tour. I won't attempt to do that now.

Q All color, no substance?

MR. MCCURRY: All color, no substantive comments. Mostly just about the tour itself.

Sandy, very graciously, will do a little preview of tomorrow and discussion today.

MR. BERGER: There are a few comments in the pool report about the construction of the Terra Cotta Warriors, the President's perspective on that. So it is substantive. I was kidding. (Laughter.) Mistake. (Laughter.)


This afternoon the President saw what is clearly one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world, and an enormous statement about China's past. The President's comment to me was that he was impressed by the awesome nature of the site, but equally impressed by the care and meticulousness with which the Chinese people are reconstructing what they have found and what they have been working on now for about 25 years.

Before Emperor Qin, whose tombs those were of course, the soldiers were buried alive. Qin instituted the policy apparently of having them simply replicate themselves, I think thus being the first "third way" emperor in history.

China is changing. There are still forces that are pulling the other direction, that are resisting. That change --we've seen that in the episodes over the last day of dissidents who have been detained, obviously, the Chinese apparatus, Chinese security apparatus doing what comes naturally for them. People are not debris to be swept up for a visitor, and we have expressed our concern about this to the Chinese government.

Their response so far has not been terribly satisfactory. They dispute the facts or otherwise explain these incidents away. But we will continue to make clear, and the President will make clear in his meetings tomorrow, that this is simply, as he said today, China looking backward, quite at odds with the China that we see all around us here in the last 24 hours; a China that is moving in leaps and bounds into the 21st century.


On human rights, this is something we've talked about very extensively with the Chinese. We have made a number of suggestions relating to dissidents, relating to Tibet. I would not anticipate that we would see the fruits of those discussions while we're here. As you'll recall, when President Jiang came to Washington and we had very extensive discussions with him on a number of human rights topics, it was not until he returned to China, until some weeks or even months later that they announced the release of Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan and Bishop Jin and intention to sign the U.N. Covenant of Political Civil Rights. I would anticipate the same pattern in this case.

On rule of law, an area that we are placing increasing importance on, I believe we will be able to conclude an agreement to intensify a process that's begun over the last year of training Chinese judges and lawyers, of working with Chinese jurists and judicial, legal officials on legal assistance to the poor, working with the Chinese on making sure that the process of rule of law includes personal rights as well as property rights -- human rights as well as intellectual property rights.


Q Sandy, you said that in their response the Chinese government was disputing the facts on the dissident arrests. Can you tell us what the facts are as you know them? It's very hard to get a handle on what's going on.

MR. BERGER: I can't give you a definitive version of the facts. We have heard the reports from you folks and in some cases the Chinese have had a different version of facts; in some cases -- their response has not been satisfactory, let me just leave it at that.

Q Sandy, what have the Chinese been saying? What is their version of the facts?

MR. BERGER: As I say, I don't want to get into enormous specifics here. They have basically not adequately explained the situation, as far as we're --

Q Well, how hard have you been protesting? And I mean by that, with Ambassador Sasser -- he's the one?

MR. BERGER: Among others.

Q Well, he has presented these protests. What has he said to the Chinese?

MR. BERGER: He has said to the Chinese, this is thoroughly unacceptable, as the President will say to the Chinese tomorrow, as I have said to the Chinese today, as I expect my deputy, Mr. Steinberg, will say to the Chinese today. So this is not in China's interest. The fact that we're obviously focused on this as opposed to the other things that are happening in China. We've made this point to the Chinese. It's not in their interests. But --

Q What does "unacceptable" mean? That's a strong word. What's behind it?

MR. BERGER: It's unacceptable, in my judgment, for people to be detained in connection with an event like this -- this is not surprising, but it's not unacceptable. Those of you who have been here before, that have traveled with President Bush or traveled with Secretary Christopher or others, know that the security apparatus often undertakes these kinds of steps. They see a trip like this with a combination of, I think, anticipation and some fear. But if China is going to make that next step into really being a nation whose practices are fully acceptable to the international community, then this is a step -- this is not a step in that direction.

Q Sandy, on that point, are you trying to separate the security apparatus from the folks you will see in Beijing tomorrow? They're all the same thing, aren't they?

MR. BERGER: I'm not trying to make any -- I can't tell you where these decisions are made. I know in the planning of this trip there have been very large decisions that have been made at a local level and sometimes very small decisions that have been pushed to Beijing. So it's hard to know exactly what the line of responsibility is here. It really doesn't matter. As I say, people are not debris to be swept up for visitors.

Q Do the Ambassador's comments to the Chinese represent a formal objection?

MR. BERGER: Certainly.

Q Are we suggesting that there is something that the United States will withhold in terms of cooperation as a result of this?

MR. BERGER: I think it is just as effective for the President to speak about it forthrightly and directly today, for us to speak to them about it directly. I think -- we will certainly not accept this, but as I say, this is a not unusual pattern, although not an acceptable pattern. And as China increasingly moves into the international community, it has to be less fearful of its own people.

Q Yeah, but, Sandy, what's the "or else"? What are we going to do except stomp our feet?

MR. BERGER: I think there has already been -- you speak almost as loudly as Sam does, Bill. Not quite, but almost. I think there has been change in China over the last five to 10 years, even in the area of the options that people have in their lives and the general freedom of expression that they have overall. And many of your correspondents have written about it. So the movement is in the right direction. And I think part of the reason for that has been the presence and pressure of the international community. I think that's effective.


Q Sandy, you've said that the Chinese are generally moving in the right direction on the issue of human rights and that these dissident roundups, such as they are, are probably not on the scale that we've seen before. Are you concerned that your comments might be interpreted by the Chinese as sort of a tacit approval of what they're doing, despite what the U.S. saying --


Q -- and, Sandy, if not, if you don't believe that, then why do you think that the Chinese would do this if they're not afraid of our response?

MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, I think China's human rights record is terrible. I think China is an authoritarian nation, as I've said before. I think there's been some progress in human rights, but it has been not nearly enough. So I, by no means -- I think that what I said, or at least intended to say was that the choices the Chinese people have in their lives today were unimaginable 10 years ago, 20 years ago. You saw those people out there today -- where to work, where to live, where to travel. Two and a half million Chinese went abroad last year. The choices that come from the cable television -- I love the fact that the income that they derive from the community companies was plowed back into that village into cable television. I think that's a step in the right direction.

So, in that sense, when I say -- I think that the degree of options that the Chinese people have today are greater than they were. I think in the area of public dissent, they are still totally unacceptable. And I don't think this is directed -- the implication is that this directed at President Clinton. This is -- the fact that this happens generally in connection with these kinds of visits does not make it acceptable. It is not appropriate. It's not necessary. It is also not the first time it's happened.

Q How does this roundup affect the chemistry of the summit? How does it push up the issue of human rights above other issues that you intended to put forward?

MR. BERGER: I think human rights -- I think human rights was, is, and will be a very high priority for the President in his conversations with President Jiang. I think -- that these episodes I think simply reinforce that priority.

Q So will the President specifically raise the detaining of those dissidents when he is talking with Jiang Zemin?

MR. BERGER: I expect that they will be raised in connection with that meeting. I'll give you a readout after the meeting rather than --

Q Sandy, by staging this roundup now, on the occasion of the President's visit, doesn't it show that the Chinese authorities, or at least some of them, just don't care what the American President thinks about these matters?

MR. BERGER: No, I think -- I don't think that's the case. I think they have anticipated this visit with great excitement. I think they -- look at the number of people who have been here in Xian. I'm not a great crowd counter, but there have been certainly hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. There is enormous excitement here, as I saw when I came twice in the last two months, about the President's visit. As I said before, I think the Chinese face these things with the combination of excitement, anticipation, and fear. And their instinct -- the instinct of some at least -- is to let their desire for order overwhelm their ability to permit expression. And that is something that has to change.


  END                 4:52 P.M. (L) 

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list