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China Won't Link Hillary Clinton Visit to Continued Detention of Harry Wu

By Keith B. Richburg
The Washington Post

A Chinese government spokesman said Tuesday it is up to the United States to decide whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attends next month's United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, but he said the decision must not be linked to China's continued detention of Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu.

"Those two issues have nothing to do with each other at all," Chen Jian, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters in his weekly press briefing. He said the case of Wu, who has been accused of the capital crime of espionage, was being handled through "normal judicial procedures."

In his news conference, Chen also spelled out for the first time the two "categories" of people he said would not be admitted to China to attend the women's conference, which begins Sept. 4, or a meeting of nongovernmental groups that begins Aug. 30. Chen said groups not approved by the United Nations will be barred, as well as anyone "whose activities actually threaten the safety of the conference."

Chen denied that China is trying to block thousands of women from attending the conference by delaying visa processing or rejecting some delegates outright. He said groups or individuals that might fall into those two excluded categories was "very, very small in number."

"The vast majority of applicants will get their visa at the appropriate time," he said. "To say a lot of people have been denied visas is false."

Several organizations, particularly those advocating Tibetan independence, have complained that they already have been denied visas, while many other women have said that delays and bureaucratic obstacles - such as requiring attendees to obtain a confirmed hotel room in advance - would prevent many women from coming. Many of those affected are from developing countries.

Another issue to arise recently was concern that some countries, such as Niger, which recognize Taiwan, were being denied access or finding it too difficult to obtain visas. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province of China.

Many women reportedly have canceled their plans to attend the nongovernmental forum and the conference.

Chen said the main reason for the delays in visa processing "is that there are too many applicants." But he said Chinese officials are "working around the clock to solve this problem."

He also said women from countries without diplomatic relations with China could apply from neighboring countries and they would not be excluded.

But in his remarks, Chen made clear that it was China as the host country, and not the United Nations, that has the final say on who will be allowed to attend and who will be barred. His comments seemed to contradict an agreement between the Beijing government and the United Nations that all those groups approved by the world body would be allowed into the country for the conference.

"As the host nation of this conference, China is responsible for guaranteeing the smooth and safe operation of this conference, and the safety of the delegates," Chen said.