Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
71. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will address alarming reports that a person was relieved of their post at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva following remarks made regarding the Uighur people and their treatment by the Chinese government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59625/21]
My Department is aware of the issues raised by the individual concerned. Both the current and former Ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva have personally met with the individual concerned, who remains in contact with my officials.
Ireland has raised the issue of the release of the names of NGO delegates to UN Member States and received assurances from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights that, while there had been a historical practice whereby the names of participants were occasionally confirmed to States in limited circumstances, this practice had ceased since the end of 2015.
Ireland is a strong advocate for the protection of civil society space and Human Rights Defenders. In 2013, Ireland led a new resolution at the Human Rights Council entitled “Civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice a safe and enabling environment”. This resolution addressed the issue of civil society space as a human rights concern for the first time at the Human Rights Council. Ireland continues to lead on the renewal of this resolution, most recently in July 2021, focusing attention on the essential role civil society plays in the Covid-19 response and recovery.
In September 2021, at the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council, Ireland, as part of a core group, led a successful resolution condemning any acts of intimidation or reprisals against Human Rights Defenders engaging with the United Nations.
In common with other European Union Member States, Ireland has raised our concerns with China regarding the situation in Xinjiang on a number of occasions, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora. Most recently, at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Ireland joined an EU Group Statement of 26 Member States, which called on China to comply with its obligations under national, and international law to respect and protect human rights, including in Xinjiang. On 21 October, Ireland joined a cross-regional statement on Human Rights in China at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, which calls on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Bilaterally, as is standard practice, my officials have discussed the situation in Xinjiang with the Chinese Ambassador and most recently have discussed, at senior level, the application of the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, as well as China's retaliatory actions. I also raised our concerns regarding this situation with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during our meeting on 30 May. In that discussion, I outlined Ireland and the EU's position on the treatment of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. I emphasised the importance of allowing unrestricted access to the region to independent observers in order to make an objective assessment of the situation, particularly through the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.