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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 2021

Vol. 281 No. 1

Human Rights in China: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann:

- calls on the Government to consistently and strongly:

- speak out against ongoing and sustained breaches of fundamental human rights in the People’s Republic of China; and

- support the freedoms and liberties of the people of Taiwan;

- reiterates its view that no force should be used in any attempted unification of China with Taiwan;

- condemns utterly the treatment of the Uyghur population of Xinjiang province by the government in Beijing;

- requests that the Government deals with the people and government of Taiwan on a basis similar to that adopted by most EU member states, including the use of the EU Representative Office in Taipei;

- rejects any attempts to curtail or end dealings by members of the Oireachtas with the people and government of Taiwan; and

- condemns all efforts to isolate the people and government of Taiwan from participation in international organisations and joint international humanitarian initiatives.

I propose to share my time with Senator Boyhan. I will speak for 14 minutes and he will have two. This motion is important because it deals with sensitive issues between the Irish State and the People's Republic of China. It also involves our relationship with the people of Taiwan. I thank the spectrum of Members of this House, members of all parties and none, who agreed to sign this motion. It is not tabled just in my name or in the names of members of the Independent Group.

The motion calls on the Government to consistently and strongly "speak out against ongoing and sustained breaches of fundamental human rights in the People’s Republic of China". I will indicate at this point that I will support Senator Malcolm Byrne's amendment regarding Tibet. It also calls on the Government to consistently and strongly "support the freedoms and liberties of the people of Taiwan" and states that Seanad Éireann "reiterates its view that no force should be used in any attempted unification of China with Taiwan", "condemns utterly the treatment of the Uighur population of Xinjiang province by the government in Beijing" and "requests that the Government deals with the people and government of Taiwan on a basis similar to that adopted by most EU member states, including the use of the EU Representative Office in Taipei". It also states the House "rejects any attempts to curtail or end dealings by members of the Oireachtas with the people and government of Taiwan" and "condemns all efforts to isolate the people and government of Taiwan from participation in international organisations and joint international humanitarian initiatives."

I was privileged to travel to Taiwan to witness and see for myself how its last general election was conducted. Although I was expecting that a democratic process of that kind would be different in other parts of the world, I found that, in Taiwan, there was a massive turnout of voters in polling stations right across the country. There was great engagement by the people and massive rallies for the various parties. There was a total commitment to ensuring the election was fair and free. That is something no other person in China is permitted to participate in at this time. There are no free and fair elections in the so-called People's Republic of China. The people are given no direct say. It is a dictatorship run by the Communist Party of China, which claims to act in the interests of the people. It is a one-party state.

Aside from that, there is also the enormous issue of how members of the Uighur people, the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province, have been treated by the Beijing Government. I will very briefly paint a picture of what has happened to them. A massive assault has been launched on their cultural, religious, ethnic and social existence. An article in The Guardian this week clearly exposes how this goes straight to the top, to President Xi. He called for radical measures to crush what he considers to be a separatist threat in that province and for the strongest measures to be taken to ensure that no religious or minority tendencies in any way threaten the integrity of the People's Republic of China. For ordinary Uighurs, this means families being broken up, people being brought to so-called re-education camps and interned in what we would call prisons and women having their reproductive rights greatly circumscribed by Chinese authorities. All of this is done with the avowed purpose of controlling the growth of the Uighur population in Xinjiang province. This is only five or seven years after the ending of the one-child policy in China.

They now realise that their horrifically inhuman attacks on their own people's reproductive rights have led to a crisis with an ageing population. One section of the Chinese people, the Uighur population, has been specially set aside as a group whose reproduction rate is considered in China to be a threat to the people's republic. People have been the subject of mass deportations and have been sent to work as quasi-slave labourers in other parts of China. Families have been broken up and their civil and political rights, as they existed in a tiny and vistigial way in modern China, have been completely trampled. I do not compare this with what happened in Nazi Germany, but it amounts to a form of cultural, religious and ethnic genocide deliberately being perpetrated by the Beijing Government.

Where are we in all of this? We are involved in two ways. We have diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and for that purpose we accept the one China policy. That involves the Chinese assertion that the de facto division between mainland China and Taiwan is not legitimate and that there is an aspiration for unity of all the Chinese people, including the people of Taiwan. Our Government generally endorses that position. I presume, however, we do not support the notion that any force could be used in an any attempted reunification of China with Taiwan. President Xi has explicitly endorsed the possibility of using force to end the Taiwan problem. Wwe must make it very clear that we stand with those countries in the free world that absolutely and categorically reject such use of force and who stand with the people of Taiwan to say that any reunification of China and Taiwan can only be done by peaceful means. We accepted that principle in 1998 when we decided that peaceful means were the only way to Irish unity.

When I visited China as a Minister, I was forcefully struck by the changes under way at the time. The former Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Henry Kissinger, published a book on China. I remember discussing it with him. His view was that if China were to be integrated into the international world of trade from an economic point of view and were to prosper as a result, an emerging middle class in China would essentially change the nature of the country and make armed conflict between China and other states impossible. For a while it seemed his optimism was well placed. Now, however, we have a different China that is following an approach of wolf diplomacy. It retaliates against countries that query its human rights record and threatens trade relations with those countries.

When I visited in Taiwan, I spoke with diplomats from many other countries stationed in representative offices. I also visited the European Union's representative office in Taipei. It was shocking to be told that Ireland especially among all the European Union member states had least to do with the European Union's representative office in Taipei. It had closed whatever trade mission we had there and it was the one country that stood out as being most afraid in any way of crossing the path of the Chinese Government by having any visible presence in Taipei or Taiwan. That is shameful. It is really shameful because other members of the European Union have their representative offices there and the European Union has a representative office that we, in effect, boycott. It is sad cowardice.

I will mention briefly the freedom of Members of the Oireachtas, including those in this House, to engage in political dialogue and friendly relations with the Taiwan representative office in Dublin. It exists here but it is deeply unfortunate that the Ceann Comhairle, in his capacity as Chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, wrote to Members of this House urging them to bear in mind the damage they would do to Ireland's interests by engaging at all with Taiwanese representatives in Dublin or having any ongoing political dialogue with them. That is deeply regrettable but happily it was purely his own personal decision and he has no function under the Constitution to tell Members of this House or the Lower House what they should and should not do in terms of human rights and foreign policy. The letter he wrote made very clear to me, as a recipient, the warning that I might damage Ireland's national interest by seeing a democratic process in operation in Taiwan and that I might damage our trading interests. I accept our significant trading interest with China, but that does not mean I must avert my eyes or close my mouth when it comes to the abuse of human rights in China.

I put on record that the People's Republic of China has had a very interesting path of development. It has gone through terrible periods of vicious suppression of its own minorities, with tens of millions of people dying in various campaigns promoted under the leadership of Chairman Mao. I am long enough around here to remember - most Members of the House are not - a time when I was at university when contemporaries were breaking up lectures, waving the little red book, as the Irish end of the cultural revolution. They were beating up lecturers in Trinity and UCD for having views on history and pharmacology that offended Chairman Mao's diktat. I remember all of that.

China's record is not one we should admire. It has done great things by embracing internal capitalism to alleviate the poverty it inflicted on its people but now we have come to the point where it is exerting influence across the world while at the same time engaging in massive suppression of minorities within its own state and threatening to take away the freedoms of the people of Taiwan. The time has come for Members of the Oireachtas, freely and without any downward pressure from anybody, right or wrong, to express our views on these matters and call on the Government to strengthen its stance as a member of the United Nations Security Council against the abrogation of human rights in China.

I second the motion and will use the last minute and half or so of the slot to thank my colleague and friend, Senator McDowell, for setting out the terms of the motion, which are very clear. A number of independent sources have documented the abuses in China well in recent years, including The Guardian. I acknowledge that. There is also Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Forbes and the Council of Europe.

I will make two simple requests of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would like him to publicly express concern about the way Christians are being mistreated under the Chinese authorities' new regulations for religious affairs, including crosses being removed, churches being raided and closed and pastors and spiritual leaders being arrested.

I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise the matter with the Chinese ambassador to Ireland. I do not mean over a cup of Chinese tea but that the Minister would call the ambassador to Iveagh House to clearly express the views that we will express here this afternoon. That is meaningful parliamentary engagement. This is not just a conversation in this room. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, to take the messages from today to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and that the Minister respectfully requests that the Chinese ambassador come to Iveagh House to express our concerns.

I move amendment No. 1:

After the third paragraph, to insert the following paragraphs:

“- expresses serious concern at the continued abuse of the human rights of the Tibetan people;

- notes the erosion of the rule of law and repression of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong;"

I second the amendment.

We have much to learn from the Chinese people, including about their history and their culture. There is a lot that we can learn and there is a lot we can share. I support the development of global, free and fair trade. The EU and Ireland should do what they can to support trade with China, and we need to build co-operation and friendship. I am also conscious of perceptions, and of Ireland and the EU being perceived in any way to lecture other countries. We are not perfect ourselves, and our record on the treatment of minorities in the past has often not been perfect. It is important, however, that we highlight universal values, and when we see human rights being abused that they are called out. It does not matter whether this is in Belarus, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, or closer to home in Hungary or Poland. When it comes to our foreign policy, it is a core question on what we stand for. Irish foreign policy has always been based on the respect of human rights. It has always been for standing against torture and oppression of minorities. It supports the rule of law. It is in favour of a free press, freedom of expression, including religious expression, as Senator Boylan has said, and the right to peaceful protest.

We have seen a Chinese Communist Party that has become increasingly authoritarian. We know about the Uighur genocide. This is not just about the oppression of human rights or the freedom of expression. We are talking about forced internment and mass sterilisation. As Senator McDowell outlined very effectively, we are aware of the threats being made against Taiwan and against anyone who co-operates with Taiwan. We are also seeing what is happening with fellow EU member state Lithuania at present. We have seen the oppression of the Christian minorities, the Falun Dafa and other religious minorities in China. We have seen the crushing of all dissent in Hong Kong and the national security law, which has seen more than 150 individuals rounded up, effectively without charge, just because of their public statements or political activity. This includes the media boss Jimmy Lai and the political activist Joshua Wong. These are activists, journalists, lawyers and academics. The Chinese Communist Party has decided to round them up simply because of their views.

In the case of Tibet, a situation that has been running for a long number of year, and Ireland has always shown solidarity with Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party continues to engage in its re-education programme. It deprives Tibetans access to their own language. On a regular basis, the UN committee against torture has expressed concern about the deaths and serious injuries of persons that are taken into custody in Tibet.

As we see the advance of new technologies globally, we must ensure the citizens' data are protected. I am very concerned about the growth of the surveillance society, which China and the Chinese Communist Party has allowed to develop.

I have also tabled an amendment on the Beijing Olympics, which I will speak to in a moment. I respect the Department's request not to push the particular amendment, and I will not. I do this because of work that is going on in the case of Richard O'Halloran. It is very important that we support the Department in its work to try to secure the freedom of an Irish citizens from an unlawful detention. I must question the Department's approach to date concerning Richard O'Halloran. There appears to be no progress. Perhaps the Minister of State will be able to respond to that. That said, I do not believe Ireland should be represented in any official or diplomatic capacity at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. I would be disappointed and angry if the ambassador or any official from our embassy in Beijing was to attend those games in an official capacity. I do not believe that athletes should be disadvantaged in any way but we should support, including at EU level, a diplomatic boycott of the propaganda that will be the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. I am aware that our Minister of State with responsibility for sport, Deputy Jack Chambers, has indicated very clearly that he will not attend. I hope the Minister of State will also give a clear indication that the other Minister in the Department would not attend.

The responsibility is not just on Government. There must also be responsibility in the corporate world. If those in the corporate world who are sponsoring the Beijing Winter Olympic Games want take part in this propaganda exercise on the part of the Chinese Communist Party, they need to make very clear statements around human rights. These include some of the biggest companies in the world. Airbnb, Allianz, Coca-Cola, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Samsung and Visa. All of those companies are sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. They have a responsibility to indicate if they are on the side of global human rights and universal values, or if they are happy simply to support the increasingly authoritarian regime of the CCP.

The Olympic Games inspires so much of the world but the International Olympic Committee also has a role in ensuring that international values around human rights are upheld. In the selection of venues for future summer and winter Olympic Games regard must be had to the human rights record of any country. I strongly support this motion. It is core to Ireland's foreign policy that we put human rights at the heart of it.

The Green party, an Comhaontas Glas, is very pleased to support this motion before the House. We commend all movers and sponsors of the motion, including Senator McDowell and all associated with it. It strikes a unified chord in this House. In doing so, I am conscious of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists we have welcomed to this country every year, the very active education tourism, and the growing number of Chinese people who make their home in this country of a thousand welcomes.

The complete and stark opposite is happening in the People's Republic of China. A previous speaker commended The Guardian newspaper. I would like to commend BBC news for producing what can only be regarded as very strong prima facie evidence that there is systematic and horrendous abuses of human rights in China. Much attention has quite rightly been brought to the situation of the Uighur population in Xinjiang where we have heard of the reports of mass detentions, sterilisation, and the abuse of human rights. As a previous speaker said, if China harbours an aspiration to one day reunify with Taiwan, the only way of doing that is the democratic way. It would make great and much more progress. In Ireland we are at our closest point ever to reunification. This is because the guns have been largely silent in recent times. I am aware it is not an authentic peace but it is a seismic change to what we have been used to. This is because we have enunciated and celebrate the consent principle. It is through the consent principle in Northern Ireland and the consensus that one makes real progress.

I will make one observation about our country, and I would like the Minister of State to respond. We seem at times to have a disproportionate preoccupation with, if not a deference to, trade.

Once the word "trade" is mentioned, it seems to the public that principles are traded with economic trade and fundamental principles of human rights seem to take a back seat because people are conscious of trade.

We saw this recently with the disproportionate and provocative response of the Israelis in Palestine when children were slaughtered. We eventually got a motion on that over the line. If I could offer some constructive criticism, we seem to lack urgency in respect of condemning outright what clearly ought to be condemned. As a small nation, we should lead the way in showing people how things can and should be done. This begs questions. We hear all of the time that Ireland has secured membership of the UN Security Council. I have no doubt that Ireland and all of the officials led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs are doing their best but there is an information deficit. With that influence at the very top table, are we any better in respect of tackling the Chinese problem? Can we measure in tangible terms the results of our input? How is the current position different from when we were not on the Security Council in respect condemning China and its horrendous barbaric regime? I am sure work is being done and maybe there is a communications deficit. I have no doubt that the uniquely Irish experience and influence are being brought to bear on the UN but I would like more updates on how we are making an effective, tangible and measured difference.

In many respects, the Senators who moved the motion are preaching to the converted. Can we take the next steps? Should we not seek to visit Taiwan or the Uighur population? We should send a delegation. We should put China under the microscope and under pressure. Diplomacy is the art of speaking so I do not believe in cutting ties. As suggested by a previous speaker, can we take the unprecedented step of inviting the Chinese ambassador to address the Upper House? That would be a marked departure but this is a very serious issue? The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will do its best but I wonder how the Seanad can make a difficult situation better in a measured and tangible way. Our presence today putting on record all of our concerns is in itself a very important exercise but I seek the next steps. Can the EU agitate more? The EU has let us down sometimes, for example, by not leading the way and waiving patents for vaccines. I ask the Minister of State to kindly reassure us and the Irish people that our input at the UN is being felt at the highest level.

I welcome my very good friend and party colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy. I know from internal meetings and my membership of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that the Minister of State is very proactive on all issues and has made a real impact in his Ministry. It is a great pleasure to have him here today.

I will pick up where my good friend and colleague, Senator Martin, finished and put the record straight on our involvement at UN level. That is not to object to his full thesis that we should use the UN and our presidency of the Security Council to the maximum degree. Ireland joined a cross-regional statement on human rights in China at the third committee of the UN General Assembly on Thursday, 21 October. The statement calls on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It also expressed concern about fundamental freedoms, political pluralism and democratic rights in Hong Kong arising from the introduction of the national security law. In line with the European Council's conclusions, Ireland suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong in October 2020.

Senator Martin is fundamentally correct that we should of course use every international body to unambiguously pursue human rights, specifically in China in this instance. Ireland has great credentials and moral authority in this area and is highly respected. This matter should be pursued irrespective of the forum, but especially in the UN. I wanted to put on record that we are doing what we can. Unfortunately, we can make moral arguments and pass motions but the degree to which we can achieve their implementation is somewhat fettered. Nevertheless, we must do our best and keep at it, as we are doing.

Ireland has a positive trading relationship with China valued at €24 billion. There are 6,000 Irish citizens in Hong Kong, 1,000 in Shanghai and 600 in Beijing. These are important relationships, which we would like to see grow. In acknowledging our positive relationship, I will make a few points on human rights. First, the basic thesis stands that the authoritarian regime should not become more authoritarian and should adopt a human rights approach. The sabre-rattling and threats to Taiwan cannot be supported under any circumstances. We have Taiwanese representatives of very high quality here in Dublin. The Oireachtas must unambiguously state that Taiwan must have self-government and its own administration and has a right to self-determination in the sense that it has it currently. There should also be no threat to the existence of Taiwan or its future. Ireland's trade with Taiwan is worth €1 billion, which is not insignificant. The Taiwanese question is a major one. In recent times, there has been an implicit threat to Taiwan which is creating insecurity. We must unambiguously oppose that.

Tragically, the question of the Uighur Muslims is on everyone's lips and we are giving it much thought. What we know is horrific and what we do not know is scary. We are aware of the abuses, including the use of electronic devices, and the concentration and re-education camps. We know that much but what do we not know? How comparable are this case and events in the Second World War? It is a human tragedy, observers should be let in and the issue should be dealt with.

The question of Hong Kong arises. The basic law, the abuses in Hong Kong and way in which normal existence in Hong Kong has been upset over the years are a retrograde step. Given what has happened in Hong Kong in recent years, there is a fear that the problem will extend to Taiwan next.

We must to be unambiguous in our pursuit of human rights, both at UN and EU level. Beyond that, we cannot take unilateral action that would have any impact. Unfortunately, I missed some of the earlier contributions as I had to be elsewhere. I have no doubt that one or more previous speakers have already suggested or will suggest that we break off all trading relationships and all forms of contact with China, commercial and otherwise. I do not support that thesis but I support the thesis that we should be unambiguous and make our position clear in the EU, during our presidency of the Security Council, and also the Council of Europe, even if, strictly-speaking, it is not a relevant forum as it is focused on Europe.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity and congratulate the movers of this important motion.

Ar dtús báire, cuirim roimh an Aire Stáit. Seo rún eile i measc roinnt rúin atá pléite sa Teach ar na mallaibh maidir le cúrsaí domhanda agus cúrsaí idirnáisiúnta agus is rud maith é sin. I welcome the Minister of State to the House for this discussion. I note this is one of a number of recent Private Members' motions on international affairs. It is important that the Seanad takes the opportunity to reflect on and discuss issues on the world stage.

Sinn Féin has serious concerns regarding reports of human rights abuses in China, specifically in Xinjiang province, Tibet and Hong Kong. We are absolutely committed to the principles of human rights and stand opposed to and condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur in the world. On the increase in tensions between China and Taiwan, the situation should be de-escalated and diplomacy and dialogue should be the instruments used to bring calm to the region. This is what the European Union is meant to be about - dialogue and conflict resolution. We must ensure Ireland's voice remains steadfast on the international stage against all human rights violations and use the position on the UN Security Council to act in support of negotiation, engagement and resolution.

Since 1971, successive Irish Governments have recognised the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole representative of China. This is consistent with EU policy, which adheres to a one-China policy. In line with both the EU's and Irish Government's approach, Sinn Féin supports a one-China policy, but we believe this must be achieved through peaceful and democratic means only and must be based on the observance of international law and human rights principles. It also needs to be said that co-operation between the EU and China was central to first securing the Iran nuclear agreement, and co-operation in this field will remain an important factor in future developments in that regard.

I encourage Senators, the Department and the Government to look to our own experiences of peacebuilding, conflict resolution and justice and human rights and ensure that Ireland stands for these principles at home and throughout the world.

The Labour Party supports this motion. I raise with the Minister of State a specific issue related to an article in The Irish Times on Saturday about the sacking of an Irish woman from Belfast, Emma Reilly, who was working with the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. There was a dispute between her and the human rights commission. Essentially, she was a whistle-blower because she noticed that the UN was passing on information to China, specifically giving names of some dissidents in the Uighur region. Ms Reilly was suspended in 2019 and three weeks ago she was given a termination notice. She now lives in Paris. In an interview with Ruadhán Mac Cormaic of The Irish Times and others in the media she highlighted the fact that the Chinese Government was using its diplomatic means to identify dissidents. I ask the Minister of State to comment on the case of Emma Reilly? Is the Department of Foreign Affairs supporting her in any way, such as by writing letters of recommendation to her?

I thank the Independent Group for tabling this motion. I, too, was in the privileged position to visit Taiwan. In the lead-up to the visit, I spent a lot of time doing research, especially in the areas of interest to me. While looking into the education system in Taiwan, I became aware of the Sunflower Student Movement, about which I read with great interest. It was a wave of youth activism that swept across Taipei in March 2014 in opposition to a planned free trade pact with China. It was led by students and academics. The movement pushed back against the pact, which they understood was an attempt by Beijing to insert itself into Taiwan and control its economy. They correctly viewed the pact as a way for the Chinese Government to subvert politics and control Taiwan through its economy. China was in effect arming itself with the threat that should Taiwan descent to a Chinese policy, it could collapse Taiwan's economy overnight. The students spotted the pattern. They saw the pact for what it was, namely, another attempt by China to take control of Taiwan, maybe not by armed force but by economic threat.

The movement came to a head when, having occupied the legislative chamber for half a month, the students' demands were met. Taiwan established a law requiring the supervision of cross-strait agreements before passing legislation. This law, which was subsequently signed by all Taiwanese lawmakers, represents more than its procedures. It represents Taiwan's assertion of its independence. This independence is under threat. On Monday, Taiwan had to scramble fighters as 27 Chinese airforce planes entered Taiwan airspace, five of which were nuclear capable bombers. There is no doubt this was an act of warfare. As Taiwan's defence minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, put it, this was an attempt by the Chinese Government to let Taiwan know who has the power.

I have listened to today's debate and if I were a member of the Chinese Government or a decision maker looking in, I would not be too worried because every time Senators spoke about human rights abuse, they prefaced their remarks by referring to positive trade relationships. It already gives a hand over if we say we will criticise China's human rights abuses while also drawing attention to trade arrangements. To be honest, no one will be worried by what we are saying today. We should not preface comments on human rights abuses with references to trade agreements. That completely undermines the severity of what people are experiencing in China. One of the communities Senators have referred to is the Uighur Muslim community. This issue is not new but in recent years, it has reached unprecedented levels.

In February this year, the BBC published a report on the systematic rape of female detainees in Chinese re-education camps. Former detainees and escapees recounted that organised mass rape is regularly perpetrated by Chinese police personnel. One account was by a woman named Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US. She recalls women being removed from the cells every night and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men. She also recounted being physically abused, including being bitten by Chinese officials. A woman who slept near Ziawudun in the cell, who said she had been detained for giving birth to too many children, disappeared for three days and when she returned her body was covered in the same bite marks. We also know from testimony submitted to the Uyghur Human Rights Project that women are subject to barbaric forms of torture, including electrocution while also being sexually abused.

An article in The Art Newspaper reads:

Ethan Gutmann, an award-winning China analyst who has researched transplant abuse in the country for nearly two decades, told the [Uyghur] tribunal [that took place in London] that satellite images show crematoriums built close to prison camps so that bodies can be burned after operations to remove organs. He estimates that between 25,000 and 50,000 Uyghurs are being killed for their organs every year and that this is "overwhelming crematoria facilities near camps,” Gutmann said.

Crimes for which people can be sentenced to years of imprisonment in the detention camps include praying regularly; reciting an Islamic verse at a funeral; giving children names of Islamic origin; teaching the Koran to one's children; attending a mosque; possessing religious content, such as Islamic verses, on mobile phones; practising Islamic burial rites such as washing deceased bodies according to Islamic custom; and wearing the hijab.

In June 2021, Amnesty International published a report documenting how Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang face systematic state-organised mass imprisonment, torture and persecution, all of which amount to crimes against humanity. In addition, the US has recently joined several countries, including Canada and the Netherlands, in accusing China of committing genocide, defined by the United Nations genocide convention as the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".

Despite the ongoing abused of Uighur Muslims, it would be wrong to say that their treatment is unexpected. China has long shown a pattern of attacking those who it perceives as threatening the ideology of the state, even if it is just one individual.

I call on everyone here today to be strong when they call out human rights abuses and to focus on what is in the motion, namely, human rights abuses, and not preface them as a way to buffer the severity of what people are experiencing in China today.

I call on the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Colm Brophy, to make his contribution.

I thank the Acting Chairperson. I am very pleased today to contribute to this important debate. Ireland has a proud history of supporting the protection of human rights around the world. We are a small country but we are an independent voice on the international stage, prioritising the most vulnerable and marginalised. We are committed to the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights and to accountability for human rights violations and abuses. I welcome the opportunity to discuss our engagement with China and will set out how Ireland has been actively engaging with China, including on issues of concern. I will set out how Ireland engages also with the island of Taiwan.

Our values will always remain at the forefront and weave through this Government's engagement with all partners. We have found that the most effective way to advocate for change is to engage directly with relevant authorities in concert with our partners in multilateral fora. The situation in Xinjiang resonates with the Irish public, the Government and clearly here in the Oireachtas and with the Senators today. On engaging with this issue we remain pro-human rights. We are not anti-China. As we challenge Chinese policy we do not seek to undermine Chinese sovereignty. Rather, we emphasise the obligation on the Chinese authorities to act in a manner which respects international human rights obligations. The evidence-based reports regarding serious human rights breaches in Xinjiang tell us that this has not been the case. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, had the opportunity to outline Ireland's position when he visited China in May and met with foreign minister and state councillor, Wang Yi. At that meeting, Deputy Coveney outlined our evidence-based approach and raised our concerns in an open and candid manner.

We also maintain concern about the situation in Hong Kong and the manner in which the national security law is being implemented has already given rise to concerns that many people there no longer have the freedom to express themselves. The changes to the relation system to the legislative council reduce democratic representation. I can confirm that Hong Kong was another topic that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, discussed during his visit to China. In co-ordination with EU partners Ireland has also taken practical steps including suspension of Ireland's extradition agreement with Hong Kong which clearly signals our concerns on the rule of law. At the Human Rights Council in September Ireland joined a statement of the 26 EU member states, urging Beijing and Hong Kong administrations to respect the rule of law and Hong Kong's autonomy under the One Country, Two Systems principle. The EU made a similar statement at the UN General Assembly which Ireland supported. I want to underline that the primary objective in all our human rights engagement with China remains to find meaningful improvements on the ground, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

I also wish to note, particularly in regard to Senator McDowell's contribution, on the issue of Oireachtas engagement with the Taipei representative office and with others in Taiwan. I want to be clear that the Government supports the rights of Members of the Oireachtas to engage with external parties, as they see appropriate. It remains the case that the Government is committed to the One China policy, as I have already mentioned and outlined above.

Ireland has committed to promoting a multilateral rules-based approach to engagement in the region, anchored in international law. Ireland contributed to the European Union's new Indo-Pacific strategy, which we welcome as an opportunity to contribute to the region's stability, prosperity and sustainable development. Together with our fellow EU member states, we will continue to monitor tensions in the region and to encourage those with influence to ward against further escalation.

I take this opportunity, in response to the Senator who raised the recent newspaper article about the Irish citizen formerly working for the UN, to point out there has been engagement between both the current and former Irish ambassadors in Geneva and that individual. It is an ongoing process and it is not really appropriate for me to comment further on that. The engagement has taken place.

Did she get her job back?

To conclude, I thank Senators for their contributions thus far and look forward to hearing further contributions from them.

I was delighted to sign the motion and I praise Senator McDowell and his colleagues for bringing it forward. I have always had an issue with the subject but, in more recent years, I have become even more concerned. I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I welcome his statement.

Fianna Fáil welcomes the debate and endorses the long-standing policy and practice of raising concerns about human rights and fundamental freedoms directly with counterparts in the Chinese Government in the context of the EU's relationship with China and at multilateral forums including the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and the United Nations General Assembly. There continues, however, to be deep concern over evidence-based reports on the treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang. Ireland, in line with all EU member states, adheres to the One China policy, which recognises the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole representative of China and, as such, does not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Nevertheless, the One China policy does not preclude Ireland from developing cultural and economic relations or appropriate technical engagements with Taiwan.

The protection and promotion of human rights and freedom of expression is a core pillar of Ireland's foreign policy, and it is essential that China ensures full respect for the rule of law and complies with its obligations under national and international law with regard to the protection of human rights. Tensions are high in this region and, to be honest, I do not think the Chinese authorities have helped the situation in any way. In the early part of the 20th century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence but the region was brought under the complete control of Communist China in 1949. Xinjiang is currently designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south, but the reality is the province has little autonomy from the Chinese state.

Over the years, central government policies have curtailed the Uighurs' religious, commercial and cultural activities, and a large number of the majority Han Chinese have been encouraged to move to the region. Beijing is accused of intensifying its crackdown after street protests in Xinjiang in the 1990s and again in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The street protests were largely demands for economic rights. A university student in Xinjiang told the BBC in 2014 they were banned from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and reports from the region suggest Uighurs' local government officials have been banned from fasting and from attending mosques. In 2017, the Chinese President issued a directive stating, "religions in China must be Chinese in orientation, and ... adapt themselves to socialist society".

This directive led to a fresh crackdown on religious practice and particularly affected the Uighurs. It was outrageous behaviour. Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints and cameras that scan everything from number plates to faces. It is horrific and horrendous. The Chinese Government has stated the measures are necessary to combat separatist violence in the region but is accused of exaggerating the threat to justify the repression of the Uighurs, and we all know that is what is happening. Many prominent members of the ethnic minority have been imprisoned or have sought asylum abroad after being accused of terrorism.

A UN human rights committee found in 2018 there were credible reports China was holding 1 million Uighurs in political counter-extremism camps. A committee member, Gay McDougall, stated the Chinese Government has "turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp". Human rights charities, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have long accused Beijing of mass imprisonment and torture. Most inmates in the so-called re-education camps - we have watched a few documentaries on what exactly is going on there - have never been charged with a crime and have not received any legal representation. China has long denied operating internment camps and maintains the outside world does not understand the circumstances in Xinjiang but I think most of us here do understand them and most of the free world know what is being done there. China insists that Uighur militants are waging a violent campaign for an independent state by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest. It is clear to all of us, however, that what is being done there by the Chinese authorities is a terrible human rights injustice against the people of that region.

I am delighted to support the motion. I compliment Senator McDowell and the others who brought it forward. I thank the Minister of State for appearing before the House but we must be in no doubt that what is happening in the Uighur region is not good and the Chinese authorities must bear responsibility for it. We must not have a soft attitude towards the way it carries on. I fully accept we do an increasing volume of business with China but business is one thing and the human rights of people in that region are another. I will always stand firm with those who stand up for those people.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. I have raised these issues on a number of occasions in this Chamber and elsewhere. It is important to make the distinction in this debate between China and its people, on the one hand, that is, the ordinary citizens trying to go about their lives, educate and feed their children and make a living, and the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government, on the other. This is a distinction I have made on a number of previous occasions because the two are different. I have great respect for the Chinese people and Chinese history, and for what China has done over its innovative history regarding the development of so many things we often think are European but, in fact, originally come from China. Their history is enormous in terms of their contribution to the world. What has happened in that country since 1949 and the Communist era in China has completely changed the most populous country in the world, its attitudes to its citizens and its attitudes to the wider world.

It is important to make that distinction, which is why I disagree with what Senator Ruane said about talk of trade and undermining the human rights abuses. I recognise the importance of trade and the benefits to our economy and to individual people, companies, employees and families in this country, and I do not blame any of them for trading with China and engaging with Chinese people and society. I do not blame people for using Chinese products or driving cars built in China. All around us, including in this room, there are things that were made in China. That is not the problem. The problem is at a diplomatic and political level, and I say that with great respect to the Government. As the Minister of State noted, there has been engagement directly at the level of its foreign minister, Wang Yi, and I acknowledge that is happening.

At the same time, however, the Minister of State referred to the joint declaration by EU states that refers to the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance and systematic restrictions on freedom of religion or belief against Uighurs. There is a long list of issues and we all know they are happening. There is no dispute about their happening, except from the Chinese Government. I have raised the issues of Uighurs in this Chamber previously and I received correspondence from the Chinese ambassador here with a report I consider to be entirely bogus, contradicting findings in respect of the Uighur population. I wrote to him to ask him to meet and talk about the matter but I have heard nothing since. There is no dispute in the international community about what is happening. There is a scale that goes from the threat to Taiwan, to the removal of freedom of speech and expression in Hong Kong, to the overcoming of the population in Tibet, to what we have been talking about in regard to the Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Make no mistake about it, what is going on there is a genocide.

I accept the difficult position the Government is in and countries are affected differently by their relationship with China, but as we sit here and talk about it,and as Senator McDowell said in proposing this motion, it is every bit as bad as what was happening on this Continent in the early part of the 20th century. It is of the same scale. To sit here and talk about it, and not acknowledge that and take stronger action, is every bit as bad in terms of political correctness as it was for Eamon de Valera to sign the book of condolences for Hitler after his death in 1945. It is of the same order. Although it may be diplomatically and politically correct, it is morally wrong. It is something on which we must take a stand.

Let me be absolutely clear about my attitude to human rights. There are not human rights, freedom of expression or respect for the rule of law in China. It continues to not only disrespect the rule of law within its own borders, but to do so outside of China and attack fellow members of the European Union. Reference was made to Lithuania. It made the grave diplomatic mistake of acknowledging Taiwan and having a Taiwan representative office instead of a Taipei representative office in Vilnius, a distinction that the rest of us think is absolutely preposterous but which appears to raise hackles so seriously in Beijing that Lithuania has now been the recipient of a deluge of online and offline attacks from China. China withdrew its ambassador from Vilnius. It ejected the Lithuanian ambassador from Beijing.

It is a fellow European Union state and is not very different from Ireland, but perhaps has less trade with China than Ireland. Nonetheless, it is a fellow member of the European Union. It has been the subject of a pile on in terms of social media, cyberattacks and protests organised in Lithuania. I know this is difficult and that the Minister of State is in an impossible and invidious position in terms of what to do diplomatically and politically, but we are a Legislature. We are not the Executive of this country. The notion that we would not raise these issues time and again is wrong.

In the UK, in 2015 Xi Jinping referred to the Government in China being a socialist law based government with Chinese features, a definition I reject. The Chinese features he referred to must be the suppression of the population, abuse of its citizens and the disregard for human rights and the rule of law, things we accept as norms. The very fact that I can stand here and talk about that freely without fear that the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, will launch an attack against me is a demonstration of how privileged we are relative to our counterparts in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or anywhere else one chooses to mention.

There can be no dispute that China has thumbed its nose at the international community and has totally thrown out the baby that is human rights abuses with its own desire to keep the water of its own government. The extraordinary thing is that Taiwan is a demonstration of what China could be, namely, a much freer and productive society and a successful economic entity. The short-sightedness of Xi Jinping and the communist crew in Beijing is damaging the future of the country enormously, as well as suppressing citizens. We call on the Minister of State to make a very clear statement in that direction.

Following on from Senator Ward, the problem is not the Chinese people and their ancient traditions and wisdom and tremendous capacity. The problem is the evil empire that modern China, under the Chinese Communist Party, has become. It is at war with the rest of the world, or certainly with the free democratic world, because it sees that as undermining its claims to its alternative wisdom of how people can be controlled and how it see itself managing its society.

I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State, who is a pleasant man and an able politician, but the first indication of the Government's response is the fact that it is the Minister of State, as the junior man, is being sent in to take this debate today.

That is not fair.

I am going to say what I am going to say.

Be fair now. That is not fair.

I am not saying that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, would give us any great consolation, but we would at least have had the chance to see him looking uncomfortable. The chances that a Minister of State would have an outbreak of independent mindedness on an issue like this against Government policy would mean his promotion prospects would disappear as quickly as a Chinese government contract from a member of Falun Gong.

Let us start with how compromised our political establishment is, and not just in Ireland. When prominent academic and expert on the Uighur people, Dr. David O'Brien, compared the situation in China to that of South Africa during the 1980s, our former alumnus and Minister, Ruairí Quinn, who is on the board of the Ireland China Institute, said, "I don’t think you can compare with what happened in South Africa with what is happening today with the second largest economy in the world ". We should note the economy button was pressed straightaway. He went on to say that, "What the Chinese have achieved in terms of lifting their people out of poverty involves a scale that we in Europe find hard to imagine". There is no mention of the tens millions of people who died and the decades of imposed poverty under the Chinese system. Putting on the cloak of Irish independent mindedness, he then said,"I would be very slow to criticise other systems that have emerged, and that have emerged so successfully ... and as the Chinese have ... and I would have a great respect for how they have done that, mistakes and all". That is a line straight out of the playbook of the Chinese Communist Party.

The excellent book, Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World, shows this is one of many techniques that the Chinese Government employees. It has people it presents as China experts and members of boards and various organisations. In reality, they are cadres of the Chinese Communist Party. There is the double plating of organisations which have one name for cultural and propaganda purposes and another name in the Chinese Communist Party structure because nothing may happen unless there is control of it from that party.

People like Alan Dukes, Enda Kenny and Ruairí Quinn are all names we can associate some way with Chinese engagement in recent years. The day is coming when some committee in the House, as a matter of due diligence, will have to ask people like that whether they benefit financially or otherwise in any way directly or indirectly from what they do in regard to China. The problem is as serious as that. Unless we start asking the hard questions, we will never discover just how compromised our institutions have become.

What has the Government said about the fact that the Winter Olympics will take place in Beijing? A number of us in the House cosigned a letter to the Olympic Federation of Ireland which was met with absolute silence. We objected to the fact that the Olympics are taking place in Beijing and called for no diplomatic engagement. Has the Government even said it would be better if the Olympics did not take place in Beijing? It is unthinkable that there would be any partying or diplomatic engagement. It would be the equivalent of partying on the top deck of a luxury ship while people are enslaved and tortured in the galleys, yet that is what is constantly happening with China.

That is why we had a motion here last year which called on the Government to use all diplomatic and trade links in China to nail the message on the abuse of human rights, the enslavement, torture and coercion of culture and ethnicity of the Uighur people, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, the abrogation of the 1980s Sino-British accords that guaranteed the two systems-one China agreement and the abuse of the Tibetan people. No prominent leader could even meet the Dalai Lama without an objection or consequences from China. The list is endless.

An Irish citizen has been detained arbitrarily in China and we do not whether to raise this case because of fear we will damage the chances of getting him home. This is the monster we are dealing with.

An Irish diplomat dared to speak up, and we saw the corruption of the United Nations entity. She spoke up about the fact that people were engaging with China by giving it the names of dissidents who would be at particular meetings and places, thereby endangering those people and their families, and lost her job because she blew the whistle in an international forum that is supposed to be dedicated to the protection of human rights. We are in a very bad place.

I want to compliment the representative of The Irish Times, who I see in the Gallery, because that newspaper stands alone in giving coverage to the worries and objections that are being expressed about what is happening with China and what the Chinese government is doing. In general terms, it is very hard to get institutions in Ireland to take an interest in what is going on.

My time is up, but I want to conclude by asking the Minister of State a question. When he came to the House to debate that motion last year, he did not object and it was passed unanimously.

What has the Government done since the Seanad urged it to use its diplomatic and trade channels? That question remains to be answered.

While I accept that this is a passionate debate and I am keen not to interrupt people when they are in full flow, it is utterly wrong to name individuals outside this House who cannot defend themselves, as the Senator did, and then to try to suggest some sort of financial impropriety.

I am saying that questions need to be asked. It is too serious for these little parlour games.

Senator Mullen has been in this House much longer than I have been.

I made no accusations, but the questions need to be asked.

He is a much more experienced Senator than I am.

Certainly, former politicians can take that.

He knows the rules much better than other people here. I ask him to consider the remarks he is making when he brings other names into the conversation.

I made no accusations, but questions need to be-----

That is all I am asking. I have made my point.

I will not hear any more. Senator Mullen-----

Courtesy is a secondary virtue when people are being tortured.

I will not have Senator Mullen speaking over the Chair. I have made my point and I hope he will accept it.

And I have made mine.

He has indeed and I hope he will bear in mind what I said for future debates.

I commend Senators McDowell, Mullen, Craughwell and their colleagues in the Independent Group on tabling this very important motion which I am very glad to fully support. I second the amendment on Tibet made my colleague, Senator Malcolm Byrne. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, to the House and thank him for his contribution.

Taiwan's road to democracy began in the 1980s, culminating on 23 March 1996 when the people of Taiwan elected their first president by direct suffrage. With a population of almost 24 million, this democratic country with a western-friendly attitude and highly efficient and educated workforce proficient in speaking English must be recognised and listened to. The Irish Government needs to engage meaningfully with the government and people of Taiwan as other countries and the vast majority of the members of the European Union do.

Senator Martin referred to the attitude of the European Union to Taiwan. I will put on record the official stance of the European Union, of which we are a senior member, regarding Taiwan and the one-China policy. For the European Union, Taiwan is a reliable and valued like-minded partner in Asia. The European Union and Taiwan share common values, such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights. They are both committed to upholding multilateralism and the rules-based international order. The European Union and Taiwan share common objectives, such as tackling the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as promoting stability, security and sustainable growth.

While the European Union pursues its one-China policy, the European Union and Taiwan have developed solid relations and close co-operation in a wide range of areas. Regular consultations between the European Union and Taiwan deal with issues of mutual interest, such as human rights, trade and economic issues, connectivity, innovation, digital issues, green energy, the circular economy, labour issues and disaster management.

The European Economic and Trade Office, which Senator McDowell mentioned, was established in 2003 as the EU office in Taiwan and is now comprised of three sections: the political, press and information section; the trade section; and the administration section. Another important point, which I ask the Minister of State to note and bring back to his colleagues in government, is that 17 member states of the European Union also have offices in Taipei.

In 1989, Ireland opened an institute for trade and investment. However, this office closed in 2012 as an austerity measure, we were told. Ten years on, that office has failed to reopen despite representations from all sides of this House and the Lower House. Why has that not happened? That begs another question. What is the real reason it was closed?

Taiwan was the European Union's 15th most important trading partner. The official stance of this State is that we recognise the one-China policy and we want to see one-China two-systems work out. That worked out very well for the people of Hong Kong. Are we going to sit back and let this democratic island of 24 million people be treated in a similar manner?

I pay tribute to the Taiwanese representative office in Dublin led by Pierre Yang and his colleagues for the Trojan work they do in trying to establish better economic and cultural links to this country. The onus is on us to facilitate them in doing that. I again thank the Independent Group for tabling this motion.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I acknowledge the phenomenal work he is doing in his brief on overseas aid. We are all very proud of the work he does and I encourage him to keep doing it. He is representing our country magnificently.

I thank Senator McDowell and his colleagues for tabling this motion. It is a matter that has troubled me considerably, particularly in recent times. We have seen how China is treating Taiwan by encroaching on its airspace in a very dictatorial and threatening manner. Senator Wilson gave a very powerful contribution. He articulated what we all believe to be the case. Taiwan is a democratic country. Its people elect their own president and their government. It has a population of 24 million. It is not like the monster that is trying to invade it and is threatening it, whose human rights record is atrocious. I have no problem saying that and being quoted articulating that view. It is very disturbing to listen to media reports of Chinese aircraft circling and invading the airspace of Taiwan.

Taiwan has flourished; it is a great country. What it has done in more than 20 years as a democratic country has been fantastic.

Taiwan has a great relationship with this country. The people of Taiwan and the people of Ireland share many interests. They have a common purpose. Yet our Government is the only one in Europe not to have an official representative in Taiwan. I agree with Senator Wilson. Why was it shut down in the first place? Why has it not been opened? We should have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. I pay tribute to the Taiwanese office in this country, led by Pierre Yang and Chris Tsai. In spite of the fact we do not treat them with the respect they deserve, they treat us with huge respect. Irish people have gone to Taiwan as missionaries, priests and people from religious orders. The work they did in Taiwan to help Taiwan for many decades is something the Taiwanese people appreciate.

We are speaking about Taiwan, which has a population of 24 million, and how it does its business and how it recognises and respects human rights, the role of women, people with disabilities and people of diverse and different backgrounds. However, the record of the country trying to invade it, China, on human rights is terrible. It does not treat women with respect. It does not treat people with disabilities with respect. It has no regard whatsoever for people from different backgrounds. It has grown into what can be described as a monstrous economy that really does threaten the world.

As a small country we have always punched above our weight internationally. We are on the UN Security Council. Traditionally, we have always punched above our weight. We need to stand on the side of the Taiwanese people. We need to use our influence internationally to support Taiwan and ensure its independence, its people and its way of life are respected and that it is not bullied by the power that is beside it. I have to say I have huge regard for the record on Taiwan of President Joe Biden and previous US Administrations. Whatever the purpose or reason for it, at least it is there as a counterbalance to what is going on.

I sincerely hope we will change our attitude on our foreign policy and, in the first instance, re-establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan and open our economic office in Taiwan, which should never have been closed in the first place. The Minister of State is extremely influential in government. He carries a huge amount of influence within the Department of Foreign Affairs. I would love it if he came out on the side of Taiwan and became an advocate for the people of Taiwan and the wonderful culture and great democracy it is. Taiwan and Ireland have significant connectivity and friendship. This can be built on to the mutual benefit of both countries. I look forward to the response of the Minister of State.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy. I ask, not in a discordant manner but in a friendly one, that Senator Mullen withdraw his remarks and the inference attached regarding former Members. It does not serve us well in the debate. There is much more that binds us than disunites us. I respectfully ask Senator Mullen in this context to do so.

I only want to ask the questions.

I appreciate that.

We have already had the debate.

The Acting Chairperson did a very good job in intervening. To be fair, in his own right Senator Mullen would be justified in standing up and lambasting some of us if we did what he did.

This is a very important motion. The world stands at a crossroads. This week, The New York Times had a very interesting article on China, Taiwan and the growing closeness between Europe and the Taiwanese people. This is about being sensitive to the needs of all of us in the world in the context of upholding human rights. I support the motion, conscious that the Government has a One China policy. We must look at the totality of the relationships around the world, in this case with China and Taiwan. There needs to be a real debate about this with regard to upholding freedoms and human rights. All of us in the House predominantly agree with the tenet of what we are trying to achieve with regard to engagement and diplomatic relations. The motion includes calling for the Taipei office being reopened. Senator Mullen is right. Our issue is not with the Chinese people; it is with the empire, if I can so describe it.

To go back to The New York Times, the article speaks of Europe's willingness to strengthen relations despite Beijing's threats. That is no way to engage in foreign policy. Senator Ward, soon to be Deputy Ward, made a very passionate and eloquent speech-----

-----on which we should all reflect in the fullness of time. For far too long, there has been a hands-off policy and a policy of keeping Europe and Taiwan at arm's length by European governments. Thankfully, that is changing. Senator Conway spoke about President Biden and relations with Taiwan. There comes a time in the affairs of men and women where we must stand up. We have made reference to Beijing and the Winter Olympics. The corporate world is turning a blind eye to abuses of human rights. Minorities are being suppressed. This is a glorious opportunity. Today on the Order of Business, I spoke about the need for sporting bodies in athletics, football, rugby or whatever sport, to have a conversation not only about the Olympics in Beijing 2022 but about how long we can stand idly by when human rights are being abused and people are being killed and tortured.

Let us look at the issue of Peng Shuai, the tennis player. Where is she today? She mysteriously appeared last week in a video and has gone again today. How long will we as parliamentarians say that the One China policy and economic ties are far more important than human rights and the killing, torture and oppression of people? This is not about us flying the flag for Taiwan. It is about us flying a flag around the world for human rights and for upholding the rights of people who are minorities. There are some who come in and lecture us. There are men and women throughout the world today who are afraid to be gay and who are oppressed by their own states. We cannot stand idly by and say it is different because they are gay, God help us. The world will start to change and we can, through this motion and through the Government, lead the way.

The Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, has travelled the world. He is challenging how we deal with HIV and AIDS in Africa and other parts of the world. I note today is World AIDS Day. I thank him for the work he has been doing quietly with NGOs and organisations throughout the world challenging regimes and looking for regime change. There is more that unites us than divides us in the context of this debate. I want us to leave here supportive of the need to uphold human rights and not just to say it is a flag of convenience. We must bring real change. As I said this morning, sport has led in the past with regard to apartheid and civil rights not just in South Africa but also in the United States and throughout the world.

The struggles we have today can continue to be advanced by this motion and by us uniting. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, for being here and I thank Senator Michael McDowell and the Independent Group for the debate.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. As this is the first time I have addressed him since his elevation, I congratulate him on that.

At the outset, I thank Senator McDowell for giving leadership to our group in this area. Sitting here, listening to the debate this afternoon, the level of passion from all sides of the House and the excellent speeches that were made by all of my colleagues must surely drive home the message that we in Ireland need to wake up.

In January, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member states to revisit their engagement policies with Taiwan, and I fully support this. Having visited Taiwan as a member of the Ireland-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Society, I know only too well the value of democracy and trade in this regard. Indeed, when we visited Taiwan, we visited at the time of an election. It was something else to see tens of thousands of supporters of different parties on the streets, speeches being made on street corners and massive rallies. We saw it all. We visited election centres and we watched people freely come in to cast their franchise and freely leave. Nobody at any stage stopped anybody or spoke to them. The officials who were in attendance simply did as they do in every constituency in Ireland; they handed out ballot papers and people cast their ballot and put it in the ballot box. That is democracy, and we saw it in operation.

I honestly do not believe that active engagement between Members of the Oireachtas and Taiwan can damage the relations between Ireland and China or are in conflict with the long-standing One China policy. However, I am aware of the fact the Chinese get extremely upset when they hear people speaking about Taiwan, Tibet and various other things we do not like about China. That is typical of the bully who was in the schoolyard when we were kids. He determined who you could be friends with and who you could not be friends with. The true test of friendship is to be able to tell a friend what they are doing is wrong and not to have that friend turn on you and say, “Well, if that is the way you feel, I am not going to talk to you anymore.”

Senator Lynn Ruane spoke about how we seem forced into prefacing everything we say with trade. Sometimes, just sometimes, there is more to life than trade.

I and my Independent colleagues have often spoken in the House about the plight of Richard O'Halloran, who is still in China two and a half years on. I have spoken to his wife many times. If diplomatic relations are to have any value, Richard O'Halloran should be at home. He should not be in China. His children are growing up and they will not know their father. I spoke to somebody the other day who was involved in the resettlement of prisoners from Vietnam. One of the things he was advocating was that I would get somebody to make a DVD of what has happened while Richard has been away because, when he comes home, he has to, if we like, reacquaint himself with what has happened in Ireland. This man is locked up out there for no reason and with no judicial process to keep him there. When the Minister of State goes back today to the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, please tell him I do not buy it anymore that we are working hard to get Richard home. If we were working hard to get Richard home, and if we had any standing whatsoever in the world, Richard would be home.

Way before I came into this House, I visited China as a lonely, or lowly, teacher. I went out there to the family of a student and I was brought around to visit schools. I contrast what happened there with what happened when we watched the elections in Taiwan. At every school we went to, we were welcomed. It was very formal and the formality became more strict when the political officer came in. There was no feeling of people with free speech. In almost every classroom I visited, I was asked what I thought of China's record on human rights. Why was I asked that question? If anyone visited a school in Ireland, England, France or Germany, does somebody turn around and ask, “What do you think of our record on human rights?” This was all predisposed. The reason was that China is desperate to show itself as a country that respects human rights while, at the same time, showing absolutely no respect for human rights.

In the time I have left, I want to talk about the corporate world. Senator Buttimer spoke about corporate support for the Beijing Olympics. It should be nothing unusual to any of us here to recognise the fact that the big corporate world could not give a continental damn about human rights or anything else. Their bottom line is profit, and profit only. They do not care about human rights. If they did, we would not see the exploitation of children making clothing in some parts of the world or children mining in other parts of the world. These things would not happen if big corporate world people had any respect for human rights. Maybe they are in the right place in Beijing, standing alongside a totalitarian regime that cares sweet damn all for the people it rules over.

I know the Minister of State represents this country abroad and he does a good job. When he goes back to his ministerial colleagues, please tell them we have to wake up. We may be small but we do have a voice. Let us open an office in Taipei. They were damn good to us when we needed PPE quickly.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this Private Members’ motion. It is almost 12 months since this House unanimously agreed a motion in regard to the unlawful detention of Richard O'Halloran, an Irish citizen in detention in China. As Senator Craughwell said, Richard O'Halloran should be at home and if diplomatic relations were working properly, he would be at home. There is no reason that the Chinese authorities could not let Richard O'Halloran go and it would still be in consultation on the issue with the Irish Government if things were working properly.

As I said, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion. A lot has been said about human rights in China and we all know the human rights issues that exist there. As a people, the Irish people like the Chinese. They are like the Irish people as they are industrious, hard-working people and great to work on their own initiative. It is sad to see the human rights issues the Chinese people tell us about. There is a significant Chinese population in this country. There were nearly 100,000 Chinese people here during the boom, although it could be somewhat fewer at perhaps 50,000 or 60,000 now. Many have very good, solid businesses, with many in the catering area. They run a great show and they are very hard-working, like the Taiwanese people.

I have visited both China and Taiwan. The Taiwanese people are equally as industrious. They have a great country of 24 million people. I was very disappointed with the World Health Organization at the start of the pandemic. The Taiwanese were the world leaders in regard to combating Covid-19 yet the World Health Organisation did not see fit to invite them to some of the world health conferences that took place and did not feel the Taiwanese should have an input, as they should have had an input. They were the world leaders and probably are still world leaders today. That goes to show what goes on.

The Minister of State was quite right in his speech when he said that we are a Parliament and, therefore, we are different from the Executive and different from the Government.

It is only right that we pass this motion. I believe it will be passed unanimously. There should be no interference with, or pressure brought to bear on, this Parliament in respect of what we say or who we wish to represent in respect of the Taiwan-China situation. That has happened. A number of us in this House were invited to Taiwan and we were put under pressure not to go. We were told that trade deals were going down between Ireland and China and that it was not in the best interests of this country for a delegation from here to go to Taiwan. Senator Wilson, former Senators Michelle Mulherin and Paudie Coffey, Deputy Carey and I were all to be part of that delegation but some of those people did not travel as a result of pressure from our Government and the Chinese office. I would not like to see such a situation arise again. Three of us did go but if we had not, what would the situation have been? It would have been a massive victory for the Chinese against the Taiwanese. That is not on. The Government of the day should not have got involved in that. As Senator McDowell has quite rightly pointed out, we are a Parliament and are separate from the Executive, that is, the Government.

The Government closed down the office in Taiwan. We should open it up again. That should be a priority for the Government. A lot of trade could take place. As the Minister of State said in his speech, there is €1 billion in trade annually between Taiwan and Ireland. Taiwan is big in the whiskey industry and we are big producers of whiskey. We have several world-leading brands in this country. The Taiwanese are big drinkers of whiskey and they produce a lot of whiskey. There are also many other areas in which we could have a significant amount of trade. From speaking to people in the Taiwanese office, I have no doubt but that we could seriously increase trade with Taiwan. The Minister of State does a magnificent job in travelling around, maintaining our relationships with various countries around the world and opening up trade opportunities. I beg him to ask the Government to reopen that office. That would be a very good step.

As I did not expect to get in, I am delighted to be able to contribute. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, to the House. He is doing a great job in the Department of Foreign Affairs. While I was in a committee meeting from 1.30 p.m. until just recently, I was paying attention to this debate and I heard quite a few of the contributions. I welcome the motion and thank Senators McDowell, Craughwell and Boyhan and their group for putting it down. It is a useful motion for us to debate. When I became a Senator for the first time in 2016, the Taipei Representative Office, as it is known in Ireland, reached out to me, as I am sure it does to all new Members. I met officials of the office and had various engagements with them and discovered that I did not know an awful lot about Taiwan. I believe many people here will not have known an awful lot about Taiwan before becoming Members of Parliament. I always understood it to be an independent country. Those of us of a certain vintage all probably grew up with toys that were made in Taiwan back in the day. Taiwan has an enormous economy and a population of some 23 million people. It is far bigger than most countries in the European Union. It has a great cultural base and is also amazingly good at manufacturing and technology.

As Senator McDowell has outlined, it is a country - or a jurisdiction if we want to use that term for political reasons - that operates free and fair elections. As Senator Wilson has outlined, it has been having free and fair elections since 1996. Along with others, I was lucky enough to observe those elections. Taiwanese people value their votes so much that people fly back from all over the world specially to vote in those free and fair elections. I knew that Ireland adheres to the One China policy, as do all EU countries, but I note that in the Minister of State's speech, he said that:

This means that we do not recognise Taiwan as a state nor maintain diplomatic relations. This policy is a prerequisite for our diplomatic relations with China, a country of 1.4 billion people.

Certainly, 23 million people seems like a tiny population in the context of that 1.4 billion people but an awful lot of things seem tiny in that context. I do not see this Parliament or this motion as being anti-China or as saying that China is terrible, in calling out mainland China, or the People's Republic of China. Rather, it alerts the Chinese Government and the Chinese authorities that things are happening in their jurisdiction which we, as a parliament, are not comfortable or happy with and that we do not want to see these things happen. We would not want to see them happen in any jurisdiction and we do not want to see them happen in this jurisdiction. While it is not necessarily the case that President Xi Jinping is listening to this debate, I hope that, in light of our own history of conflict with our near neighbours, this Parliament would seek the cooling of tensions and the moderation of China's behaviour, including its incursions into the Taiwanese air zone, the pressure it constantly brings to bear and the way it has effectively frozen out countries such as Lithuania for allowing offices to be called Taiwanese representative offices, rather than Taipei representative offices. Many of us admire China as a country for what it is has achieved but, as others have rightly asked, at what cost did it achieve these things? It is fair for this Parliament to call out bad behaviour wherever it happens. We are actually very quick to do so in respect of certain jurisdictions but we are much more reluctant to do it in respect of others. In his speech the Minister of State also said:

The policy does not however preclude us from developing economic and cultural relations with Taiwan at official level. We value co-operation with Taiwan. We have a working holiday authorisation programme with Taiwan, and in 2020 estimates of bilateral trade were around €1 billion annually.

It is my understanding that the balance of this trade is very much in our favour. I want to put on record that it is not being anti-China or the People's Republic of China to call out bad behaviour. We hope that its Government will reflect on things that are happening. If the motion goes through, as I hope it will, we will also be supporting the parliament of Taiwan and saying that Taiwan is entitled to self-governance and self-determination. Any attempted interference from outside the island of Taiwan would be most unwelcome and very unhelpful. The mainland Chinese authorities need to reflect on that.

In my last minute or 30 seconds, I will pay tribute to the Taipei Representative Office, as it is known in Ireland, and its representatives. The office is currently headed up by Dr. Pierre Yang and was headed up by Mr. Simon S.K. Tu before him. The office is promoting Irish-Taiwanese relationships all of the time in a very peaceful and friendly way. It lets us know about Taiwan's culture, helps Irish people to go to Taiwan and makes introductions. There are now Irish people running Chinese language schools in Taiwan and opening Irish pubs there. The office has been very helpful with that. I thank Senator McDowell for tabling this motion, which I wish well. I believe it will be passed. I am not saying that everything about China is bad but it is sometimes your friends who need to tell you when you are doing things wrong. In this motion, we have called China out.

I thank the Minister of State for being here and I thank all the Members of the House from right across the political spectrum for their participation in this debate. I will make a couple of points, if I may. Senator Mullen and I might disagree on one point.

The Minister of State was succinct in his responses. His senior colleague is not as succinct sometimes. The Minister of State departed from the script in one important respect. He stated that it is no part of the Government's policy or intention to discourage Members of the Oireachtas from having engagement with Taiwanese officials or Taiwanese people. That is very important. It is a very big step forward because we had not heard that before. It is nice to have it confirmed. I remind the House that Members of this House were told by the Chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission that:

Active engagement between members of the Oireachtas and Taiwan can damage the relations between Ireland and China and is in conflict to the long-standing One China policy. As Ceann Comhairle, I have no intention of telling Oireachtas members who they, as elected public representatives, can meet or what functions they can attend. That would never be my wish. However, I am aware that there continues to be engagement between some Oireachtas members and the Taiwanese authorities. This can cause serious offence and grave concern to our Chinese friends and has the potential to cause serious damage to Ireland’s developing relationship with China as well as being a danger to Ireland’s national interest.

That is what he wrote. I am glad that this occasion now puts the nail firmly through that letter. It is out of order. This House has freedoms. The Government has at last come to our aid and stated that we are free to speak our minds on this issue.

People speak about the Chinese economic miracle, and it has been a miracle. However, I remind the House that, in the context of Taiwan, when the nationalists fled, having been defeated in the Chinese civil war, and landed on that island, there was nothing there. It was almost a barren rock of a place. The Taiwanese miracle is tremendous too. I wish to put that on the record lest people think that somehow it was some little enclave of wealth. The Taiwanese people built something out of nothing, practically speaking.

Having complimented the Minister of State, I wish to also compliment the people who helped him with his speech, because they dealt with the fact that there is a European Union representative office in Taipei. He stated that IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland have regional offices. Those bodies do not have offices in Taipei. I think it is serviced from Singapore, Tokyo or somewhere else nowhere near Taipei. It was Rudyard Kipling who wrote about the well-weighed answer that tells the blacker lie. I am not accusing the Minister of State of lying, but I am saying that I spoke to people on the ground there and Irish diplomats have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU representative office in Taipei. Just saying that it is there is fine and saying that it is open to Irish industrialists is fine but I am telling the House that Ireland is the weakest and most cowardly behind the door in making use of that European facility. I reiterate the remarks of Senator Wilson in respect of the situation of the EU. We share the values of the people of Taiwan. We share their aims. We are on their side. Irish MEPs are not afraid to say so when speaking in the European Parliament and we should not be afraid to say so when we speak in this Parliament.

Reference was made to Tibet. As Senators will appreciate, it is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Xinjiang province was an autonomous region. This just underlines the absolute disparity between truthfulness and the labels which a Marxist-Leninist regime can use in its language. I reiterate that President Xi and nobody else spoke about the importance of population proportion throughout the whole of China and stated that the disproportion in population was a danger to Chinese interests. That means, in effect, that the Chinese authorities do not like Uighur Muslims having large families and will prevent them from doing so, sterilise their women, separate the men from the women and bring in the Han population and settle them in Xinjiang province. That is genocide of a sort and it is nothing else.

The debate today has been valuable. It is not simply a group of Senators speaking about something where there could be no opposition. It is important that the Government has told us here that it supports our right to engage with the people of Taiwan. It is important that Senator Wilson and the other Members have contributed. Senator Wilson reminded us that the European Parliament has stated where the EU stands on Taiwan. It is about time that message was really sunk into the marrow of Iveagh House. It needs to be European, adopt what Europe says about Taiwan, live by European values in the context of Taiwan, and stop being timid in respect of Taiwan.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Amendment agreed to.

Is amendment No. 2 being moved?

I agreed not to move it following discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and on the basis that there would be clarity in respect of the case of Richard O'Halloran.

Is the Senator happy to withdraw the amendment?

I am happy for the moment but I am concerned that I have not received further answers on the case of Richard O'Halloran. I made the point when I tabled the amendment and I strongly believe that we should have a diplomatic boycott. However, out of respect for the representatives in Iveagh House, when I was asked not to push it on that basis, I agreed. That said, I am disappointed, and others have asked-----

That is fair enough. The amendment is not being moved.

I will not push it but I am disappointed that-----

This is not a Second Stage debate. The amendment is not being moved.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 4.37 p.m. and resumed at 5.12 p.m.
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