Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, gathered the support of 107 of his House colleagues – including the Majority Leader – to send a strongly-worded letter to President Hu Jintao of China urging the Chinese government to take immediate action to save innocent lives and help bring an end the conflict in Darfur.

“The international community is stepping up to its responsibilities, but unless China does its part to ensure that the government of Sudan accepts the best and most reasonable path to peace, history will judge your government as having bank-rolled a genocide,” the letter reads.

The conflict in Darfur has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and has displaced over two million people. Lantos and his colleagues expressed grave concern about the continuing atrocities in Darfur, and said that as the largest foreign investor in Sudan, China has significant influence and bears a special responsibility for making progress toward ending the Darfur conflict.

The letter warned that China can and must do more to bring peace to the region. It raised the specter of a ‘disaster for China’ if the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were marred by ongoing accusations of Chinese complicity in the Darfur genocide as Khartoum’s largest trading partner and the main beneficiary of significant crude oil exports and construction contracts with Sudan.

“This appalling genocide has already destroyed untold numbers of families, due to displacement or death of a loved one,” Lantos said. “The international community must immediately stand up – and stand together – to bring an end to this horrific tragedy. This is a moral challenge for us all; if China fails to do its part, it risks being forever known as the host of the ‘Genocide Olympics.’ ”

Among the 108 members of the House of Representatives to sign the letter expressing their concern to the Chinese President is Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Darfur last month.

“While the Chinese government has expressed concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, and while we support China’s recent decision to send engineers to the region, I remain deeply troubled by China’s significant investment in Sudan, overall financial assistance to the Bashir government, and its trade in arms,” Hoyer said. “As I have said on many occasions, the international community has a collective obligation to address the continuing plight of innocent men, women and children in Darfur. The Chinese government must play a more constructive role in pressuring the Bashir government to take immediate action to end the violence and address the humanitarian crisis within its borders.”

The letter was delivered to the Chinese embassy this morning. The full text follows.

President Hu Jintao

C/o Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong

Embassy of China

2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.

Washington DC 20008

Dear President Hu:

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the continued atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan and request that you use your significant influence with the government of Sudan to ensure that it allows free conduct of humanitarian operations in Darfur and brings an end to the atrocities against innocent civilians. As the party that negotiated the inclusion of a clause to UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1706 requiring the consent of the Sudanese government for the deployment of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) bears a special responsibility to ensure, through decisive diplomacy and action, that President al-Bashir does provide that consent to the full implementation of phases II and III of the Addis Ababa Agreement of November 16, 2006.

The conflict waged by Sudanese government forces and government-backed Janjawid militias has driven more than 230,000 Darfuri refugees into Chad, and displaced more than 120,000 Chadians. In addition, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and an estimated 2 million displaced in Darfur itself. The conflict has had particularly devastating consequences for women and children, who make up the vast majority of victims. The attacks against, and murder of over a dozen relief workers in recent months has disrupted humanitarian operations —leaving hundreds of thousands without access to the most basic assistance.

We welcome the news that Sudan has been removed from the list of countries that your government provides incentives for Chinese businesses to invest in, and the public and private efforts you have made to encourage the government in Khartoum to accept the deployment of peacekeepers into the Darfur region. However, the PRC can and must do more. Unfortunately, the PRC remains the largest foreign investor in Sudan, and recently provided the government of Sudan an interest-free loan, worth $17m to build a presidential palace. Unfortunately, the PRC has reportedly been engaged in arms sales with the government of Sudan, arms which are used by government forces and the Janjweed militia to maim and kill innocent Sudanese civilians. These actions send the wrong message to Khartoum, as does the recent cancellation of a $70m dollar debt that the Sudanese government owes to the PRC, and the China’s projects to rehabilitate Sudan’s railways and water ports. 

We urge you to impress upon Khartoum the need to halt Sudan's military operations throughout Darfur, to withdraw Sudanese troops from the area, and to honor its commitment to accept the ‘heavy support package’ which includes a robust AU/UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, under a UN-appointed commander, police officers, civilian staff and humanitarian workers. These steps, at a minimum, are essential to enforce the ceasefire, protect civilians, ensure access to humanitarian assistance, and begin the path to reconstruction and reconciliation in Darfur.

We further urge that should a resolution be put forward at the UNSC proposing sanctions on the government of Sudan for non-compliance with its agreements or non-cooperation with the UN peace-keeping force, you instruct your Ambassador, at the United Nations, to support the resolution by, at the very least, abstaining from voting.

President Hu, the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are going to be an important event for the image of the PRC. Millions of people will visit China, and over a billion people will tune into their radios and televisions to witness the expression of international peace and solidarity, through friendly competition in sports. It would be a disaster for China if the games were to be marred by protests, from concerned individuals and groups, whom will undoubtedly link your government to the continued atrocities in Darfur, if there is no significant improvement in the conditions. Already there are calls to boycott what is increasingly being described as the 2008 ‘Genocide Olympics.’ As Sudan’s single largest trading partner, and the main beneficiary of their significant crude oil exports and construction contracts, we urge you to protect your country’s image from being irredeemably tarnished, through association with a genocidal regime, for the purposes of economic gains.

Our primary objectives are to protect civilians in Darfur, end the violence, find a just resolution to the political conflict, and begin the long path to reconstruction and reconciliation, and we hope China shares these objectives. The international community is stepping up to its responsibilities, but unless China does its part to ensure that the government of Sudan accepts the best and most reasonable path to peace, history will judge your government as having bank-rolled a genocide.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter and we look forward to your response.