Thank you for your letter of 20 August about the treatment of supporters of the Falun Gong movement in China.
As I am sure you are aware from previous correspondence with your Association, we have been deeply concerned at the treatment of Falun Gong leaders and adherents since the group was banned in July 1999. I would reiterate that concern and assure you that the Government follows events in connection with Falun Gong carefully, reviewing our policy on a regular basis, especially in the light of the numerous reports of harsh treatment in custody or during interrogation.
Through our policy of dialogue with the Chinese, we have made it clear that such actions are unacceptable and in direct contravention of provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in October 1998 but has yet to ratify. Falun Gong has been raised at the highest levels with the Chinese authorities. The Prime Minister did so with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on 19 October 1999. Robin Cook, when Foreign Secretary, pressed Chinese Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan, in New York on 12 September 2000 for swift action to improve respect for human rights in China.
We also raise the Chinese authorities' mistreatment of Falun Gong adherents during the regular UK/China human rights dialogues with China. During the latest round held in Beijing on 12-14 February this year, in addition to raising our general concerns, we also expressed concern at the manner in which Falun Gong demonstrators were manhandled in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 2000 and on 1 January. We sought details on a number of individual Falun Gong leaders and practitioners, representative of many more, who received long sentences for apparently minor acts. The Chinese typically respond along the lines that the movement is an "[Jiang Zemin government's slanderous term omitted] " which seeks to brainwash its followers and is a danger to the state.
More recently, Audrey Glover, Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights, visited China in July this year and called on the Chinese authorities to cease the use of administrative detention, a system used against Falun Gong adherents, which allows for detention without trial.
Dialogue does not prevent us from being critical of China's record in public. When former Foreign Office Minister of State, John Battle, addressed the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on 22 March this year, he expressed the Government's concern at the situation in Tibet, the continued detention and harassment of democracy activists, religious practitioners and Falun Gong adherents and at the excessive use of the death penalty in China. His remarks provoked an immediate right of reply from the Chinese delegation, which condemned his comments. Mr Battle also called in the Chinese Ambassador to protest last year at the harassment of UK-based followers of Falun Gong.
The Chinese authorities can be in no doubt about the strength of our feelings on this important issue.
I hope this is helpful.
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