Thank you for your letter of 16 September regarding the Falun Gong.
This government, together with our EU partners, takes very seriously the human rights concerns of Falun Gong members. Both the Taoiseach [Irish equivalent to the Prime Minister] and Minister Cowen have raised the issue on a number of occasions with the Chinese authorities. This government will continue to do so in our bilateral contacts in our efforts towards a resolution of this issue. It remains our view that human rights are an integral element of our dialogue with China. Ireland would urge the Chinese authorities not to act against the principles contained in the UN Covenant signed by China, in particular those relating to freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
The rights of Falun Gong members have also been raised through European Union channels, notably through the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which had its latest meeting in Beijing on 13/14 November. At this meeting, there were frank and open discussions with the Chinese authorities during which the EU reiterated its human rights concerns, including on freedom of expression, association, assembly, freedom of religion. The EU will continue to raise these concerns at all appropriate opportunities.
Ireland has also pursued this issue through the United Nations. At the 57th session of the UN General Assembly the EU expressed concern at the treatment of Falun Gong supporters. Recently at the 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Ireland was fully associated with the EU statement under Item 9 on the question of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in any Part of the World which outlined our concerns in relation to human rights in China. These included concerns at the persecution and harsh treatment of Falun Gong followers and restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly, association and religion. At the same session of the Commission on Human Rights, Ireland introduced a resolution (which was adopted without a vote) on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance which, inter alia, urged all states to ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction.
Ireland will seek to ensure that the human rights situation in China, including the followers of Falun Gong, is adequately addressed in any statement made by the EU at the ongoing 58th session of the UN General Assembly.
Ireland supports and encourages the continued efforts of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to examine incidents, and Governmental actions in all parts of the world that are incompatible with the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and to recommend remedial measures as appropriate.
Tom Kitt, T..D. (signed)
Minister of State
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