Dear [name omitted],
Further to your letter of February 13, I wish to outline the Governments actions in relation to the issue you raised. As you know, there have been a number of meetings at both Ministerial and official level with your organisation. I personally raised the issue with the Chinese authorities in September 2001, as did the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, while in Beijing, in January 2002. The issues have also been addressed in frequent parliamentary questions by Ministerial responses to in-going political representatives.
In addition, both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I together with our EU partners, continue to raise these issues with the Chinese authorities. We view with concern the human rights situation in China, including that of Falun Gong, and our Embassy in Beijing is monitoring these issues carefully.
At the most recent session of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which took place in Athens on 5-6 March this year, frank and open discussions were held which facilitated a substantial exchange of views. The Chinese interlocutors at the Dialogue expressed a willingness to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the various mechanisms and special procedures of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Chinese authorities informed the EU Troika that they had extended invitations to visit China to the UN Special Rapporteurs in Torture, Religious Freedom and the Right to Education. An invitation has also been extended to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The EU Presidency expressed the concerns of the EU in regard to the treatment of followers of Falun Gong.
EU members States agreed later in March at the External Relations Council that at the current session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the EU would convey its deep concern over the violations of human rights in China and at the lack of progress in a number of areas. It was also agreed that the Union would urge China to take clear steps to improve the situation generally and more specifically with regards to respect for the freedoms of expression, religion and belief, which have a particular impact on practitioners of Falun Gong.
In this regard, I welcome Chinas announcement of its intention to issue as soon as possible, an unconditional, formal invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor to visit the country.
I wish to assure you that the Government will continue to monitor these issues and closely follow developments.
[signed] Bertie Ahern T.D.
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