UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee report urges UK Government to toughen its stance on human rights in China

A UK-China Human Rights dialogue will be held in London in November. The need for and the effectiveness of the dialogue process were subjected to much scrutiny by the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee about a year ago.

The Committee published a report entitled "China" in October 2000 following a wide- ranging enquiry. The report specifically urged the UK government to "toughen its stance in response to the deterioration in human rights standards which have occurred in China over the past two years."

The report highlighted the abuse of the Jiang regime against Falun Gong: "The practice of Falun Gong has also occasioned repressive measures by the Chinese authorities. It appears that the Chinese were particularly rattled by a peaceful demonstration by 10,000 Falun Gong adherents outside the government compound in Beijing in April 1999-a demonstration of which the Chinese Government had no prior intelligence. Again in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 2000 demonstrators were, in the words of the FCO, 'roughly rounded up'. We received evidence from the Falun Gong Association of Great Britain that Falun Gong is essentially a peaceful method of self-development, based on ancient Chinese thought. It would attract no attention from the authorities of any state which truly respected human rights. Instead, as James Harding of the Financial Times put it, the way the movement has been treated 'has been a remarkable illustration both of the anxieties of the Chinese leadership but also its willingness to use force to suppress anything that resembles a gathering of Chinese people that is not organised by the authorities.'
According to Amnesty International, 'thousands of members of the....movement were arbitrarily detained and put under pressure to renounce their beliefs. Some were reportedly tortured or ill-treated,...'"

The report stated that "to exercise freedom of belief by …Falun Gong" is considered a threat by the Chinese leadership, and that "a beleaguered leadership in Beijing, anxious to hold on to power, has seen itself over the last two years as having no alternative but to suppress any movement which threatens, even marginally, its position."

The report further pointed out that "it is equally plausible to argue that another factor which has caused the crackdown is a Chinese feeling that the international balance has tipped in their favour, with other countries less willing to criticise Chinese human rights abuses because of the market opportunities which they believe exist in an economically liberalised China."

The report stated: "We conclude that Chinese practices in relation to religions and belief systems are not in keeping with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the rights to hold any religion or belief and to manifest it."

The report also called for improvements to the Human Rights dialogue: "Both objectives and achievements should be expressed in as explicit and measurable a form as possible."

"We conclude that the [UK] Government has been supportive of a number of positive developments for human rights in China, but that it now needs, in concert with our EU partners, to toughen its stance in response to the deterioration in human rights standards which have occurred in China over the past two years."

Reported from the UK

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