Letter to Foreign Affairs Committee on MFN

July 19, 1991 

Dear Senator: 

As the Senate considers whether or not to accept the President's determination to continue granting most favored nation (MFN) trade status to the People's Republic of China, I write to express the serious concerns of the United States Catholic Conference in the matter. 

We are sensitive to the potential adverse consequences that denial of MFN status might have on many people in China who are quite innocent of human rights violations. Nevertheless, the government of China apparently remains unwilling to redress the numerous serious and documented violations of human rights and to commit itself to adherence to the applicable norms regarding people's fundamental rights. 

We have been concerned for years about well-documented reports of coerced abortions and other abuses associated with China's "one-child-per-family" population program. Many families have sought asylum in our country, fleeing from this inhumane program. We are concerned as well about reports that China continues to export nuclear technology and missiles. 

As bishops, we have a special concern and responsibility for the defense of religious rights. I know that you are well aware of the brutal suppression of religious freedom in China over the past four decades. Sadly this condition still continues, despite our hopes that it might give way to genuine religious liberty. I draw your attention, in particular, to the continued detention of several bishops, priests, and lay leaders whose only offense has been their desire to be true to their faith arid their religious vows. 

A year ago, my predecessor as chairman of the USCC International Policy Committee called for a "time-limited certification conditioned on significant improvement in human rights and in freedom of religion, which, at the very least, should include the early release of all imprisoned religious leaders and political prisoners." To that we might well add the right of international religious bodies to be in contact with their faithful in China.

I now strongly urge that in any consideration of renewing MFN status you insist upon conditioning that status upon China's adhering to norms governing human rights and religious liberty. 

Sincerely yours, 

 Most Reverend John R. Roach
Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul
Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy