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China Cautions U.S., Denmark Against Human Rights Criticism

By Steven Mufson
The Washington Post

China warned Thursday that the United States risks damaging ties by backing a U.N. resolution condemning China's human rights record, and said that Denmark's sponsorship of the measure would "become a rock that smashes on the Danish government's head."

But China appeared close to success in its aggressive campaign to split western nations and beat back censure at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva for the seventh straight year.

China has managed to undermine support for the resolution mainly by threatening economic retaliation against other countries without making concessions on human rights issues or releasing any leading political prisoners.

Thursday, in one of the final blows to the resolution, Australia announced it would drop public criticism of China in favor of a formal bilateral dialogue with Beijing on human rights. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang welcomed Australia's decision as "sensible" and said China is willing to discuss human rights if Canberra does not confront Beijing over the issue.

France, Germany, Spain and Italy already have decided against endorsing the Danish resolution, which Denmark and the United States formally introduced Thursday at the 53-member rights commission meeting. Japan and Canada are wavering.

The imminent defeat of the resolution points to a sense of futility among countries that backed the measure in the past and to the extensive efforts Beijing has made to win allies and intimidate critics in foreign capitals.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday reaffirmed its support for Denmark's stand. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Washington had "not seen any significant change in the way China treats its people."

China's recent concessions on human rights have been small. The prospects for the release of leading political prisoners remains a dim chance.