Irish Parliamentary Questions About Falun Gong and the Detention of Two Ireland-Based Practitioners

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Question A: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will protest in the strongest terms the continued detention of two persons (details supplied) by the Government of China; if he has raised with the Chinese authorities the concern that Dáil Éireann holds with regard to the persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong; if he will continue to press the case of these two persons in order that they may return here to complete their studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. Olivia Mitchell. [14851/03]

Question B: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised with the appropriate authorities in the Government of Thailand the detention and treatment of a person (details supplied) on the grounds that they are a practitioner of Falun Dafa. Mary Upton. [14774/03]

Question C: Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding two Chinese persons (details supplied) who visited Ireland on a visa pre 1999 to continue their education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13202/03]

Response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen

I am aware of this case, which has been brought to my attention by a number of representations. Officials of my Department met some time ago to discuss it with members of the Irish Falun Dafa Association.

The two individuals in question are members of Falun Gong, which was banned by the Chinese authorities in July 1999. [...]

However, the Government takes seriously concerns about human rights in China, including those of Falun Gong members. Both the Taoiseach and I have raised this issue on a number of occasions with the Chinese Government. We will continue to raise human rights issues in our bilateral contacts.

The issue of human rights was also discussed at the meeting of the External Relations Council of the European Union in March 2003. In our conclusions we agreed that the Union would urge China to take clear steps to improve the situation generally, and more specifically with regard to respect for the freedoms of expression, religion and belief, which have a particular impact on practitioners of Falun Dafa.

At the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was held from 17 March to 25 April, the EU expressed its deep concern over violations of human rights in China, and at the lack of progress in a number of areas. In its statement to the Commission, with which Ireland was fully associated, the EU specifically expressed concern at the ongoing violations of the human rights of the followers of Falun Gong.

The EU also discusses key human rights concerns with China within the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. The most recent session of the Dialogue took place in Athens on 5-6 March this year, and discussions were particularly frank and open, facilitating a substantial exchange of views. The EU continues to evaluate the results of the Human Rights
Dialogue at regular intervals to determine how far its expectations have been met, and how improvements could be made.

My colleague, Deputy Kitt, Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development and human rights, yesterday met the Chinese Ambassador, and raised our concerns over these cases with him. 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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