Ireland: Human Rights Issues of Falun Gong and Tibet Discussed by the Chinese and Irish Premiers

On May 11th, the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Ireland, the country which holds Presidency of the EU. This is Wen’s first visit to Europe after his inauguration as Premier of the PRC. Irish Premier, Bertie Ahern, and Premier Wen Jiabao held talks in Dublin Castle. The scheduled joint press conference was cancelled because the time of their talks was extended beyond the scheduled time.

On May 12th, Ahern reported his talks with Wen Jiabao during the routine twice a week Q&A session of the Irish Parliament. Trevor Sargent, the first leader of the Irish Green Party, asked, “Did the Premiere still remember Falun Gong practitioners being persecuted in China? As a practitioner said at the joint human rights hearing of the Foreign affairs committee, China tortures and kills Falun Gong practitioners just like the ancient Roman Empire tortured and killed Christians. Did the Premier condemn the human rights abuse by China? Did you mention Tibet?”

Premier Ahern replied, "I raised these two issues and other problems during the talks with the Chinese Premier Wen for two hours last night. As Mr.Sargent knows, deputy Premier, Miss Mary Harney, also the enterprise trade minister, and I have been lobbying hard for the release of the two students who cannot return to Ireland to continue their studies because they are under house arrest by the Chinese Government."

"I’ve met Falun Gong members several times and I really understand the situation which they talked about. I stressed the importance of this issue if China wants to develop a relationship with the EU and other regions. They have to cooperate with the EU in this issue, no matter how the other regions in the world deal with it.”

“Premier Wen told me last night they will undergo dialogue about human rights with EU in a constructive and meaningful way. We can’t help but to see whether this will be realised. But that’s what he said last night; I could only accept that they will do it. He also made that commitment with the other leaders of the EU last week.”

Mr. Sargent was apparently unsatisfied with the answer, saying, “I didn’t ask whether the Premier taught a lesson to someone. I asked him whether he raised the issue of human rights abuse in China. Yes or no? The reason I ask is that not only the denial by China, but the Irish Times said the Premier brought up the issue of human right and expressed satisfaction as to the progress made. However, those who are suffering and in contact with us and Amnesty International are all unsatisfied."

Mr. Sargent continued to question, “Secondly, could the Premier tell us the reason for canceling the press conference? As everyone is aware not only was the press conference last night canceled, but it was canceled by an announcement via the tannoy system. No one could ask face to face why the press conference was being called off. Could the Premier explain why there was an unwillingness to allow the Chinese Premier to be questioned about China? God knows there are so many troubles in that huge country. The most important aspect that people want to know about is, whether or not the Premier denounced the human rights abuses carried out in that country.”

The Premier replied, “We are concerned and expressed antipathy about the human rights abuses by anybody and in any place." But he didn’t answer why the press conference was canceled. According to the Irish Times, the official reason for calling off the press conference was that the time of two leaders’ talks was extended beyond the scheduled time. Even the civil service members were astonished at the official reason. The talk began at 17:10, and concluded at 19:10. The scheduled news conference was scheduled for 18:45. The reporters waiting on the spot heard that the conference was delayed for twenty minutes. Then, at about 19:20, a tannoy message announced that the news conference had been canceled.

Somebody who got the message within Dublin Castle said there were two reasons which led to the talk schedule being extended. One was Premier Wen didn’t speak English, so translations occupied much time. The other was that Premiere Wen spent a long time talking about the competitiveness of the Chinese economy.

Zhao Ming, a Falun Gong practitioner who was illegally detained in a re-education labour camp for twenty two months and is in Ireland right now, said, “Wen Jiabao doesn’t add fuel to the flames against Falun Gong, but Jiang Zemin is holding on tightly to military power, it seems that Wen has no power to alter the situation. The persecution against Falun Gong is still going on, so it’s difficult to expect Wen to have any practical commitments to human rights."

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