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Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 117. Ms O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if he will intervene with the Chinese authorities to secure the release of two persons (details supplied) who were registered students in Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education and Senior College Dún Laoghaire prior to their detention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26900/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen I am aware of this case, which has been brought to my attention by a number of recent representations. Officials from my Department are currently examining the case and recently met to discuss it with members of the Irish Falun Dafa Association. They have also met representatives of the Chinese Embassy in relation to the Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, movement.

The two individuals in question are members of Falun Gong, which was banned by the Chinese authorities in July 1999. Falun Gong are 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, including those in respect of Falun Gong. 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 seriously concerns about human rights in China, including those of Falun Gong members. During his meeting with Premier Zhu Rhongji in September 2001, the Taoiseach discussed human rights both in a private meeting and in the plenary meeting of the delegations. During my visit to China in January, I held discussions with Premier Zhu and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on a range of human rights issues and concerns. We will continue to raise human rights issues in our bilateral contacts.

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 the human rights situation in China. The dialogue has included an exchange of views on a wide range of human rights issues. During the meeting in Beijing from 5 to 6 March last, there were frank and open discussions with the Chinese authorities on the Falun Gong during which the EU reiterated its human rights concerns.

The formal human rights dialogues are complemented by bi-annual human rights seminars in which representatives from academia, the judiciary and other experts from the EU and China participate. The most recent seminar tool place on 17 to 18 October, in Copenhagen during which the European Commission outlined the priorities for the dialogue.

Recently at the fifty-eighth session of the UN [1530]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 the persecution and harsh treatment of Falun Gong followers and restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion.

With respect to the particular cases raised by the Deputy, officials in my Department and in our embassy in Beijing will continue to monitor these cases and I will keep the House informed of any progress made.

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