House lawmakers angered by Beijing’s human rights record voted Wednesday to increase U.S. monitoring across China and considered imposing new travel and financial sanctions on its government.
A week after President Clinton warmly welcomed Chinese President Jiang Zemin to the White House, the House also voted to make it easier for Congress to block a major nuclear pact signed at the summit.
The Senate, however, is not expected to act on any of the measures before Congress adjourns for the year later this month. But consideration of them in the waning days of Congress’ 1997 session allowed House members long unhappy with Clinton’s policy of engagement with China to send a message to both the Chinese and the White House.
The nuclear pact would allow multibillion-dollar U.S. reactor sales to China in exchange for Chinese promises to stop assisting Iran’s atomic program, which the United States suspects is developing weapons.
“Over the years, China has been the Wal-Mart of weapons of mass destruction for countries like Iran and Pakistan,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said in calling for in-depth congressional review of the pact.
Markey coauthored a measure approved on a 394-29 vote to extend from 30 to 120 days the House’s review of Clinton’s certification of he 1985 U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. Markey’s measure also would make it easier for Congress to modify the agreement or delay Clinton’s certification of China’s compliance.
Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., arguing on behalf of the Clinton administration, said it was unfair for lawmakers to change the rules after the pact was signed.
“We’re retroactively moving the goal posts,” Hamilton said, complaining it could kill the deal and hurt cooperation with Beijing. “… That is not the way a responsible power should act.”
Markey’s measure was attached to a bill that would increase the number of U.S. human rights monitors in China at a cost of $2.2 million. Only Reps. Owen Picket, D-Va.; John Dingell, D-Mich.; Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa.; George Brown, D-Calif.; and Ron Paul, R-Texas, voted against the bill, which passed on a 416-5 vote.