Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
143. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which he and his EU colleagues are responding to attempts by the Hong Kong authorities to apparently suppress the civil and political rights of the population to assembly and freedom of expression, in defiance of measures provided under Hong Kong's Basic Law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31146/19]
Ireland and the EU have been consistent in its support for the full implementation of the Basic Law and the 'One Country, Two Systems’ principle. This system provides Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, rule of law, an independent judiciary, democratic separation of powers, and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of assembly and expression.
As I have noted in this House in recent weeks in response to questions on developments in Hong Kong, public demonstration and protest are an important element of any democracy and the right to do so should not be curtailed. At the same time, these rights come with responsibilities and it is important that the demonstrators do so peacefully. It is equally important that security forces respond to demonstrations with full respect for citizens’ rights and with the utmost restraint.
Since the initiation of the demonstrations in early June, Ireland has consistently encouraged all parties to refrain from any actions that may escalate tensions, and urged them to express views in a peaceful manner. We further encourage all parties to work for a constructive solution and to engage in dialogue on the matter.
The Spokesperson for High Representative Mogherini has issued statements in response to developments in Hong Kong, notably following the disturbances which took place on 12 June and 1 July. These statements reiterate the fundamental right of citizens to assembly and expression, as contained in Hong Kong's Basic Law, while calling for restraint on both sides.
Ireland's Consulate General in Hong Kong, along with the EU Office, and representatives of other EU Member States have been engaging regularly with the Hong Kong authorities with regard to developments. Furthermore, Ireland's Ambassador to Beijing met with Chief Executive Carrie Lam, during his visit to Hong Kong on 20 June.
Our Consulate General in Hong Kong, and officials in my Department, will continue to monitor the evolving situation in the Special Administrative Region, and will continue to engage with the local authorities on this issue.
144. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the further steps being taken by him and his EU colleagues to urgently bring to an end the repression of the Uighur community in Xinjiang by the Chinese authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31147/19]
The Government continues to be concerned at the credible reports with regard to the treatment of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Ireland, along with our EU partners, continues to raise this issue directly in our bilateral context with China, and at multilateral levels. These interventions have placed a particular focus on our concern with the system of political re-education camps in Xinjiang, as well as the widespread surveillance and restrictions which is predominantly targeted at Uighurs. We have called on China to allow meaningful, unsupervised and unrestricted access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant UN Special Procedures mandate holders.
At a bilateral level, I discussed the subject with China's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Wang Chao, during political consultations held in Dublin last year. Ireland's concerns about the situation in Xinjiang are also raised in our contacts with the Chinese Embassy in Dublin and through our Embassy in Beijing.
As I have noted in this House previously, the EU had a detailed discussion with China during the most recent EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in April 2019. During the discussion, the EU stressed that, while actions to counter terrorism are essential, such measures must respect the principle of proportionality, fundamental freedoms and international laws. The issue was also raised during the EU-China Summit in the same month.
In the multilateral context, the EU has consistently raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang in recent sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), including the 41st Session of the Council which is currently underway in Geneva.
Ireland and a significant number of EU Member States participated in China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2018. Ireland urged China to respect freedom of religion and belief and recommended that China grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to all regions of the country, including Xinjiang.
We will continue to raise these issues in the future, in both bilateral and multilateral forums.