Dáil Éireann - Volume 569 - 26 June, 2003
Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
 79. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has made representation to the Chinese Embassy and Government in the cases of persons (details supplied); if he will work for their immediate release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18153/03]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): As I have stated on a number of previous occasions, the individuals in question are members of Falun Gong, which was banned by the Chinese authorities in July 1999. Falun Gong is regarded by the Chinese Government as an “evil cult”. The persons concerned are Chinese citizens, and are, therefore, subject to the laws of China while in that country. As they are not Irish citizens, Ireland has no consular function in this matter, and the matter currently rests with the Chinese authorities.
However, the Government takes concerns about human rights in China, including those of Falun Dafa members, seriously. Human rights, including the treatment of practitioners of Falun Dafa, are an integral part of our ongoing relationship with China. I raised this matter directly with the Chinese authorities during my visit to Beijing in January 2002. In December 2002, and again in February 2003, the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, reviewed these issues with concerned NGOs, including members of the Irish Falun Dafa Association. In May of this year, he also met the Chinese ambassador and raised our concerns over these cases with him.
The EU discusses key human rights concerns with China within the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. At the most recent session of the dialogue, which took place in Athens on 5-6 March this year, the EU conveyed our concerns in relation to the position of followers of Falun Gong. I am pleased to report that the Chinese interlocutors at the dialogue expressed a willingness to co-operate with the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and informed the EU side that they had extended invitations to visit China to the UN special rapporteurs on torture, and the right to education, and to the UN working group on arbitrary detention. I particularly welcome the fact that China has also issued a formal invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor.
At the External Relations Council in March this year, I discussed this matter with my EU colleagues, and it was agreed that the EU should convey its deep concern over reported violations of human rights in China, at the UN Commission on Human Rights. At the recent session of the CHR in Geneva, the EU urged China to take clear steps to improve the human rights situation generally, and more specifically with respect to freedoms of expression, religion and belief, which have a particular impact on practitioners of Falun Dafa. Officials in my Department, both in Dublin and in the embassy at Beijing, continue to monitor these cases on an ongoing basis.
Dáil Éireann 569 Written Answers. Human Rights Abuses.