Question 128: Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement updating his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 29 January 2003 regarding official Chinese attitudes to the Falun Gong. [6557/03]
Question 188: Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of human rights in China. [6551/03]
Reply - Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Brian Cowen):
I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 188 together.
Concern persists in relation to the lack of respect for human rights in China, including the freedom of expression, of religion and of association. Likewise, there is concern about the ongoing violations of the human rights of pro-democracy activists, the proponents of free trade unions and the followers of the Falun Gong [...]. The EU has also noted with concern the widespread use of torture and the "strike hard" campaign, which has resulted in an extremely high number of death sentences and executions, as well as the deprivation of religious and cultural rights in Tibet and Xinjiang.
At the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Ireland, along with our EU partners, will make known our concerns in regard to these serious human rights violations.
The EU discusses key human rights concerns with China in the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which provides a forum for an in-depth discussion of these issues. The last session of the dialogue took place on 13-14 November 2002 in Beijing. At that session, the EU raised a wide variety of issues, including the question of freedom of expression, association, assembly and also the freedom of religion and belief. The EU also raised the cases of a number of individuals whose detention by the Chinese authorities was of concern. A further session of the dialogue begins today in Beijing, and will conclude tomorrow. The EU will continue to evaluate the results of the dialogue at regular intervals to determine how far its expectations have been met.
This formal human rights dialogue is complemented by biannual human rights seminars in which representatives from academia, the judiciary and other experts from the EU and China participate. The most recent seminar took place in Copenhagen on 17-18 October 2002 and focused on the theme of the prevention of torture, and on the role of national human rights institutions.
At an ambassadorial level meeting between the EU Troika and China, held in Geneva on 5 December 2002, the Chinese side reiterated their commitment to pursue and intensify the human rights dialogue with the EU.
With respect to the particular cases raised by Deputy Mitchell, the position is that as the individuals involved are not Irish citizens, Ireland has no formal consular function in this matter. However, the Minister of State for Overseas Development and Human Rights, Deputy Kitt, along with officials from my Department, met on 4 February 2003 with representatives of Amnesty International and the Irish Falun Dafa Association and received a petition on behalf of the individuals concerned. Moreover, the embassy in Beijing will continue to monitor these cases closely.
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