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U.S. Department of State
95/08/24 Special briefing on World Conference on Women
Office of the Spokesman

                        U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                         ON-THE-RECORD BRIEFING
                         AMBASSADOR TO THE UN
                          MADELEINE ALBRIGHT
                                TIM WIRTH

                             Washington, D.C.
                             August 24, 1995

     MR. DINGER:  Good afternoon.  I'm delighted that the U.S. 
Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, and Under 
Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Tim Wirth, join us today to 
discuss U.S. participation in the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women.

     Ambassador Albright is Chair and head of the United States 
delegation.  Under Secretary Wirth is Alternate Chair and alternate 

     The Conference and an associated NGO forum will gather an estimated 
45,000 people from around the world in Beijing September 4-15.  
Ambassador Albright will make a few introductory remarks.  She and Under 
Secretary Wirth will then be pleased to take your questions.

     Madam Ambassador.

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  Thank you very much.  I am very pleased to be 
with you all this morning on this subject.

     At the end of next week, the United States delegation will be 
leaving for Beijing to attend the Fourth World Conference on Women.  As 
head of the delegation, I want to take just a few minutes to list our 
goals for that conference and to explain why we believe it's both 
important and appropriate that we participate.

     First, with respect to our goals.  We want to promote and protect 
the human rights of women.  We want to end violence against women.  We 
want to expand women's participation in political and economic decision-
making.  We want to assure equal access for women to education and 
health  care throughout our lives, and we want to strengthen families 
through efforts to balance the work and family responsibilities of women 
and men.

     These goals reflect the views and concerns expressed by Americans 
in regional meetings.  They are relevant both domestically and overseas.  
At the heart of each is a commitment to equal opportunity which is the 
foundation of our own philosophy of government.

     The need to make progress towards these goals should not be in 
dispute.  There is an abundance of evidence that despite recent gains 
women remain under-valued and an underdeveloped resource.  Too often, in 
too many places women are denied equal access to education, health care, 
financial credit, and an opportunity to participate in the political 
life of a nation.

     Too often, in too many places women are denied equality under the 
law in terms of what we can own, what kind of decisions we are empowered 
to make, and what we can inherit.  Too often, in too many places 
appalling abuses are being committed against women.  These include 
coerced abortions and sterilizations, children sold into prostitution, 
ritual mutilations, dowry murders, and official indifference to 

     The Clinton Administration will use the Women's Conference to 
underline the truth that violence against women is not cultural; it is 
criminal, and we all have a responsibility to stop it.

     There are some who still suggest that we should not participate in 
the Women's Conference because China has a poor human rights record and 
because of the arrest of Harry Wu.  Those sentiments are understandable, 
but it just does not make sense in the name of human rights to boycott a 
conference that has, as a primary purpose, the promotion of human 
rights.  Nor should we underestimate the impact a conference such as 
this can have on the host country itself.

     Conference preparations have heightened awareness within China of 
women's issues.  There is public discussion of previously taboo 
subjects, including violence against women.  It matters a great deal 
that more than 5,000 Chinese women will participate in the NGO forum.  
The Chinese Government has already responded to the spotlight by 
announcing new, albeit not yet tested, policies in support of women's 

     Open discussion about the status of women makes a difference not 
only in China but everywhere.  Countries in which women have a fair 
share of power tend to be more stable, prosperous, and just than those 
in which women are marginalized and repressed.

     Before closing, I would like to comment on a few of the more 
specific issues that have arisen in connection with this conference.  An 
event like this attracts the attention of a wide range of non-
governmental organizations and individuals with strong and diverse 
opinions.  This is healthy, and it underlines the fact that the non-
governmental organizations -- the NGOs -- will play a critical role both 
at the conference and in its follow up.

     That is why the United States has campaigned so hard and with much 
success to encourage and ensure participation at the conference by the 

     At our instigation, and that of other nations, the accreditation 
process for the World Conference was reopened in April with the result 
that more than 750 additional groups were accredited, including many 
from the United States.

     Groups sending observers to the conference will hail from across 
the political and social spectrum.  A total of more than 3,500 NGOs have 
been approved to send observers to the conference, the highest total 
ever for a United Nations meeting.

     I am sure that you've read -- in fact, some of you may have written 
-- about the logistical difficulties that could face those attending the 
conference.  We share that concern, and I have talked to the Secretary 
General about the issue a number of times.

     The logistics are a real challenge to the Chinese.  The U.S. view 
is that we understand the complexity of hosting such a conference but we 
could not excuse a deliberate effort to deny visas to participants who 
are peaceful but who happen to embrace policies that the Chinese 
Government does not.  At issue is China's reputation as a host.

     Finally, no one should interpret our decision to participate in the 
Women's Conference as a sign of indifference or acquiescence in the 
continued detention by the Chinese Government of Mr. Harry Wu.  We have 
called upon the Government of China to release Mr. Wu immediately and 
unharmed.  This is a top priority of the United States.

     We do not, however, have any reason to believe that a decision to 
withdraw from the Conference or to make our participation conditional on 
Mr. Wu's release would have a positive effect on China's decision in 
this area..

     Now, I would be happy to take your questions.

     Q     Do you have any update on Mr. Wu's situation?  Can you tell 
us what you know from the Chinese Government in terms of his imminent or 
non-imminent expulsion?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I have nothing new on that.  Obviously, he 
has been sentenced, and you know that.  We are pressing to have him 
released and sent out of the country as soon as possible.  That has been 
our highest priority and continues to be our highest priority.

     Q     Mr. McCurry said a couple of days ago that he felt Mr. Wu 
would be tried prior to the Women's Conference and would, in fact, be 
expelled.  Did he have some advance notice?  Was there some sort of a 
deal struck between the United States and China for this sentence?  Did 
you have advance notice that this sentence would be handed down?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  No, we did not.  No.  We knew that the trial 
was taking place, but there has been, to the best of my knowledge, no 
deal or anything the way that you describe it.  No.  We knew that there 
was going to be a trial, obviously.  We have been pressing very hard to 
get Mr. Wu released.  That's the sequence of it.

     Q     Will the trial have any effect upon Mrs. Clinton's decision 
whether or not to attend the Beijing Conference?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  Mrs. Clinton has not decided yet what to do.  
That decision will be coming out of the White House.  There are any 
number of factors affecting that decision, and we'll have to see what 
she --

     Q     Do you see the trial as positive or negative upon her 

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I'm not going to speculate about that.  I 
think the issue here is that getting Mr. Wu released and out of China 
has been our priority and continues to be our priority.  Obviously, the 
whole situation, as I've described it in my opening remarks, is part of 
the atmosphere of the conference.  But the decision about Mrs. Clinton's 
attendance is one that is going to be made on the basis of a number of 

     Q     Madam Ambassador, Harry Wu decided not to appeal this ruling.  
Do you know if there is any other judicial step which needs to be taken 
before his actual incarceration or release?

AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I do not know that specifically.  It's obviously a 
decision that the Chinese Government will make.  I don't have any 
further information on that.


     Q     Apparently, 20 percent of the delegates at the U.N. 
Conference and the other peripheral conference will be American.  Can 
you explain why a massive boycott of one of the most influential 
countries with that many delegates would not have a profound impact on 
Chinese behavior on human rights if, in fact, the Administration is 
unhappy with the way the Wu case is being handled?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  Obviously, we took many of these issues into 
consideration as we talked about the conference as a whole.  First of 
all, I think you all know this but let me restate it.  The decision to 
have the conference in China was made in 1992.  It was done because of 
the way that U.N. conferences are set up.  They change from region to 
region.  As you know, the Women's Conferences had been held in other 
regions and it was now Asia's turn.

     China was the only country that came forward to host the conference 
and remained the only country that was willing to host the conference.  
We believe that the goals of the Women's Conference -- these women's 
conferences do not take place very often, and they set a high standard 
or an international standard for behavior towards women that we believe 
is very important and plays a very important role vis-a-vis the goals 
that I have said are America's goals for this conference.

     We think that the presence of American women -- 20 percent as you 
have stated within the NGO Conference as well as the government 
delegation -- is a very strong voice and is an important one to be 
heard, and we decided that it was important for us to go to the 
conference to state our views.  As I said in my remarks, it seemed kind 
of counter-productive to us to boycott a human rights conference because 
of human rights.  That's one part.

     The other part, John, is that the NGOs were determined to go, and, 
if the government delegation had decided not to go, we would have in 
fact left the American NGOs without a linkage with their government 
delegation, which I think we all decided was very important.

     We have a very strong message to deliver there.  We will deliver 
it.  We do not want to see 130 million American women unrepresented at a 
conference which is considering such important issues as the role of 
women in political and economic decision-making, the economic 
empowerment of women, life span, health issues for women, the education 
of women, the end of violence against women.

     So that is the decision, and I know we made the right decision 
because I think that when we go and we speak out, there is no way that 
our voices will not be heard and that it will be more effective in 
pursuing our human rights cause than if we had not gone.

     Q     Are there any preparations being made on the China end for a 
woman who may in desperation board a plane without her visa in hand, 
although she has all of her other documentation?  There are some fears 
that some women may not be able to enter the country if they don't have 
the visa or don't have that proper documentation.

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  We are working on everything we can to do 
with the visas.  If I might pursue this a little bit, I specifically 
have been very concerned about the slow bureaucratic processes of the 
Chinese Government in the whole visa issue.

     I have demarched the Chinese Permanent Representative a number of 
times, and I will do it again.  I have spoken to the Secretary General 
about it, as have other countries.  So we will pursue that in hopes that 
the Chinese will realize that their reputation as a good host is very 
much at stake in this.  They wanted the conference; and they wanted it 
in order to show, I think, that they could be good hosts.  We are 
counting on them to do that.

     As far as the question you've asked, we will have to work with that 

     Q     Well, they came out with a fairly strong statement just the 
other day saying, "We are the host country, and this is our prerogative 
to be able to turn whoever we want to turn away."  And, as I say, I've 
talked to many American women who are even today waiting to board planes 
on Saturday, and they don't have their visas.

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I realize that, and we are turning lots of 
names over to the Chinese and trying to make sure that those people that 
do not have visas, that they know how strongly we feel about this.  The 
thing you need to know also is that it isn't just Americans that are 
having this problem.  This is a worldwide issue.  A number of countries 
are having problems.

     I think that the Chinese need to understand from a variety of 
sources that this is an obligation that they took up when they put 
themselves forward as host country.

     But let me say I think that we understand the problems.  We are 
doing everything we can to mitigate them.  No question that there are 
going to be difficulties; but we are pressing very, very hard, and we 
will continue to do that.

     Q     Have you proposed that they admit people who arrive at the 
airport with documents to attend the conference but without visas?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I haven't done that specifically.

     Q     Ambassador Albright, will you be raising the specific women's 
issues -- forced abortion, forced sterilization, gender discrimination 
and mandatory one-child family, as you discussed, I think, with 
Representative Chris Smith on the 2nd of August?  Will you be taking 
to the appropriate Chinese authorities?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  In my remarks, when I speak to the 
I will raise those issues.

     Q     By the way, if I may refer to the subject of visas, I talked 
to some NGOs on the way from the conference we just had at the Press 
Club, and they said they had just received their visas, and that others 
were expected soon, and that primarily the primary problem was with 
those who had not had hotel reservations and paid their hotel 
reservations.  Can you --

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I think there's a circular problem, which is 
something that I did discuss with the Chinese Permanent Representative.  
They have a rule that if you don't have hotel rooms you can't get a 
visa, and the hotel room bureaucracy has been slow.  I pointed that out 
as a specific problem, and we were trying to see if they could 
disconnect the hotel prerequisite from the visa.  But we have to see.  
Those are the kinds of things that I raised with them -- specifically, 
that this was ridiculous.  I also said that there are lots of -- 
speaking, obviously, on behalf of American women, many of whom I know -- 
American women who are spending their own money to go.  As we all know, 
airlines have various kinds of deposit rules, and this is causing 
hardship on ordinary people who have put up their money to go and are 
expecting to go, and they need to understand how important this is to a 
large group of women from a variety of places in the United States.  I'm 
going to do that again tomorrow.

Q     But is it fair to say the problem is not simply one of 
bureaucracy, is it?  I mean, there's a suggestion that the Chinese are 
using the visa issue and delays to exclude, and you suggest that in you 
remarks -- to exclude women for political reasons.

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  To be fair, I think some of it is 
bureaucratic, because these are huge numbers of people.  Also I have to 
say that when we were going through the whole accreditation process, I 
said in my remarks we tried to get them to open it up, and they did.  
And we looked at some of the forms that the NGOs had filled out; and, 
again to be fair, some of them were not filled out completely.  Some of 
them had answers that didn't fit the question, etc.  So there have been 
some bureaucratic problems.

     I do think, however, again that there are certain types of groups 
that they don't want in there, and we have agreed with the fact that 
basically the NGOs that go should have a connection with women's issues 
- that is what this conference is about -- and that women's groups, no 
matter which kind or from what country, have a right to go, but that it 
is an issue of making sure that this is a women's conference.

     Frankly, in the past what has happened at a lot of the U.N. 
conferences is they get kind of bogged down in a lot of political issues 
that are not related to the issue at hand.  So we would like to see the 
subject --

     Q     (Inaudible)

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I mean, if it's only a political group.  But 
we have been working very hard for women's groups, no matter where they 
are from.

     Q     Do you hope that Mr. Wu would be released into the custody of 
Mr. Tarnoff this weekend in China, and do you think that's a 

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I really don't think it's productive for me 
to speculate on the timing of everything.  The point here is that we 
have said from the very beginning that it's important for the Chinese to 
free Mr. Wu unharmed and to let him leave China.  And that is a point 
that we have pressed through a variety of channels in the last weeks.  
It's clearly something as part of what Mr. Tarnoff is going to be 
talking about.  We want Harry Wu to be able to come home to America.

     Q     Ambassador Albright, some of the conservative Islamic -- I 
wouldn't say countries, but the forces within those countries -- whether 
it be al-Azhar University in Egypt or -- have opposed the idea of the 
conference, saying that it's going to promote promiscuity or it's going 
to destroy the value of the family.  Conservatives in this country have 
also opposed this.  Could you address this issue?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT:  I know that one of the issues has been 
whether this is a pro-family conference; and it is my belief from having 
participated in the document itself and in dealing with a number of 
people on this, that this is a pro-family conference.  What it does is 
talk about women's roles within the family and other women's roles.  I 
think this is the issue.

     I can speak for myself.  I'm the mother of three daughters, all of 
whom also happen to work and have families, and one is not mutually 
exclusive from the other.  What this conference is about is the ability 
of women to have more than one role, to have the ability of being a 
mother and also to have the ability to be part of the economic framework 
of a country, to be able to get low-interest loans, to be able to have 
an education equal to their husbands or their brothers; and that is what 
this conference is about.

     To me, that is a pro-family, pro-humane, pro-human rights agenda, 
where people are able to live up to their potential, whatever gender 
they are, whether they are male or female, and are able to really 
participate fully in the workings of their economic and political 
     I think it is wrong to see this as a conference that is out to 
undermine other countries' cultures.  All we're trying to do is -- when 
we think that something is criminal, such as violence against women, 
that cannot in our view be viewed as a cultural matter but as a criminal 
matter.  But basically what we're trying to do is to make sure that 
women have the opportunities that they are entitled to within their own 

     Q     Ambassador Albright, when you arrive in Beijing, are you 
planning to be a good guest and refrain from criticizing the Chinese, or 
will you be ready to criticize the Chinese over human rights, over Harry 
Wu and other matters?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT  When I go to Beijing, I am representing the 
United States and everything that we stand for.  As I have said, this is 
a conference about human rights for women, and human rights is something 
that I believe in very strongly.

I think those of you that know me know that I usually speak my mind, and 
that is what I intend to do.

     Q     I don't have the details, but the press reports say that 
there are some more Americans who are in the custody of China.  What do 
you think about those people?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT  I'm sorry, I have no details on that.  I don't 
know the answer to that.

     Q     There has been a roundup of additional human rights activists 
over the last few weeks, and in fact today a woman was arrested in 
Beijing.  Do you have any comment on the general attitude the Chinese 
apparently have in preparation for this by arresting all these people?

     AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT  Obviously we are concerned about their 
definition of security.  We believe that the conference is one that in 
no way should make -- it's important for people to have access to each 
other.  We plan to spend a lot of time with the NGOs talking about this 
issue.  But I think one would wish that the Chinese would not take that 
kind of action.  It is counter-productive.

     Thank you.

(Special briefing concluded at 12:39 p.m.)
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