Written Answers - Human Rights Issues.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 592 No. 4

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  264.  Mr. J. O’Keeffe   Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   his views on Ireland’s attitude to the treatment of members of the Falun Gong in China; if this attitude has been made clear to the Government of China; and the steps that have been taken through the EU, the UN and otherwise regarding the treatment of members of the Falun Gong by the Government of China. [29078/04]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Government takes seriously concerns about human rights in China, including those of practitioners of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. The issue of the treatment in China of practitioners of Falun Dafa has been raised both bilaterally and through the formal framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which was established in 1996.

This matter is also addressed at the UN level. At the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2004 during Ireland’s EU Presidency, the EU made a statement on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world. In this statement, while reaffirming its commitment to the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, the EU raised issues of particular concern, including ongoing violations in China of the human rights of Falun Dafa practitioners.

During the EU Presidency and since, we have had several meetings with China at which we also raised the issue of the human rights situation. The Chinese Premier, Mr. Wen Jiabao, accompanied by Foreign Minister, Mr. Li Zhaoxing, visited Ireland on 11-12 May 2004, as part of his first official visit to Europe. On 11 May, official talks led by the Taoiseach took place in Dublin.

At this meeting, both sides expressed their ongoing commitment to the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. The Human Rights Dialogue is the formal framework through which the EU raises its concerns about individual human rights cases, including those of Falun Gong practitioners, and more general issues, such as the [1142]protection of freedom of religion and expression, which have a particular impact on practitioners of Falun Gong. We emphasised that Ireland is willing to share our experience and expertise with China on human rights. The premier also reported on the measures his government is taking in the field of human rights, which included the addition of an express provision on human rights to China’s constitution earlier this year.

Since the Presidency, the Government continues to examine this question with our EU partners, considering our overall relationship with China, our ongoing commitment to human rights and the broader regional and international context. This approach was conveyed to the Chinese authorities by the Taoiseach during his bilateral discussions with Premier Wen when they met in the margins of the ASEM summit in Hanoi, on 9 October 2004 and, most recently, to Chinese Vice-Premier, Mr. Huang Ju, during his current visit to Ireland, from 16 to 18 November 2004. During our meeting with the Vice-Premier, we reiterated Ireland’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and again emphasised Ireland’s willingness to share its experience and expertise with China in the human rights area.

Overall, there has been an improvement in the human rights situation in China since 1989, which is reflected in the increasing frequency of EU-China meetings, the regular EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and by the first joint seminar which took place in Beijing in June 2004 on China’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR. The early ratification of the ICCPR would be an important development in the legal protection of the civil and political freedoms of Chinese citizens, including followers of Falun Gong. A further seminar on ICCPR ratification took place in The Hague on 8-9 November 2004.

Nevertheless, legitimate concerns persist in Europe and there is ample scope for the Chinese authorities to further demonstrate their stated commitments on improving respect for human rights.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to encourage the Chinese authorities to respect fully the human rights of all citizens. There will be further discussion of these matters during the EU-China summit, scheduled to take place in The Hague on 8 December 2004.

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