Thursday, 28 November 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
69. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports that over 1 million persons are being detained in camps in Xinjiang province in China; his plans to raise the matter with Chinese officials here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49581/19]
72. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a recent report (details supplied) into appalling conditions in a huge network of concentration camps in which over 1 million Uighur people are imprisoned in Xingiang by the Chinese Government; the steps he will take including with his EU colleagues to sanction the leadership of China and demand the immediate closure of the camps and freedom for those imprisoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49613/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 72 together.
The Government, as a matter of practice, does not comment on leaked documents.
However, we remain deeply concerned over the credible reports of the treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region. We, along with our EU partners, take these reports very seriously and have raised our concerns at official and political level with our Chinese counterparts on a consistent basis.
Most recently, Ireland was one of 23 States to sign up to a Joint Statement at the UN Third Committee on 29 October 2019. This statement called for the Chinese Government to urgently implement eight recommendations made by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination related to Xinjiang, including by refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities.
Ireland was also one of 22 States to sign up to a Joint Letter at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in July this year. This letter expressed concerns about credible reports of arbitrary detention in large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. It called on China to uphold its national laws and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang.
At EU level, this issue was raised at both the EU-China Summit and EU-China Human Rights Dialogue in April this year. During the dialogue the EU noted that while actions to counter terrorism are essential, these actions must respect the principle of proportionality, fundamental freedoms, and international laws. The EU has also raised this issue at multilateral level, calling on China to allow meaningful, unrestricted, and unsupervised access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ireland, along with our EU partners, will continue to raise our concerns during contacts with Chinese authorities at both official and political level.
70. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that have been taken at EU level to prevent the persecution of Christians worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49582/19]
Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are. We are committed to promoting freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities. This commitment to promoting freedom of religion or belief is reaffirmed in the Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World.
Within the EU, Ireland works with partners to address the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. The EU's policy in this area is led by the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which were adopted during our Presidency in 2013. The EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 also includes an express reference to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief, and we will continue to work to ensure that these issues are addressed within the framework of the EU’s external human rights policy.
The EU consistently raises concerns about violations of freedom of religion or belief in the course of political dialogues with partner countries, including human rights dialogues and consultations. The EU continues to be a strong advocate for Freedom of Religion or Belief in UN Multilateral fora, including at the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly as well as in other international organisations including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. Most recently, the EU successfully tabled resolutions on freedom of religion or belief at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019 and the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee in November 2019. Ireland co-sponsored both initiatives.
In May 2016, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker created the function of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, and appointed Ján Figel to the role. The Special Envoy has completed 16 official country visits since October 2016, during which he has met with government officials, civil society and human rights defenders.
Finally the EU is providing financial support of over €5m in the period 2018-2022 to three interfaith projects in the Middle East and Africa which aim to enhance cultural pluralism and intercultural understanding related to religion or belief. It has also increased its support to civil society projects on freedom of religion or belief under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights up to €5.18m.