I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Thomas Byrne.
We have a new procedure in the House. The combined speeches by both the proposer and the seconder shall not exceed 16 minutes.
Vol. 282 No. 10
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Thomas Byrne.
We have a new procedure in the House. The combined speeches by both the proposer and the seconder shall not exceed 16 minutes.
That Seanad Éireann notes the publication of the judgement of the Uyghur Tribunal on 9th December, 2021 and accepts its findings.
I second the motion.
On 9 December last, the Uyghur Tribunal, which was a voluntary tribunal established of experts in London which made it its business to amass evidence from around the world, particularly from members of the Turkic indigenous population of Xinjiang province, most of whom are called Uyghurs, published a report which was damning of the People's Republic of China and its policy of cultural and popular genocide which it has been perpetrating in Xinjiang province since 2014.
I circulated a copy of the report. I had it printed and circulated to every Member of the Oireachtas, both in the Dáil and here. One of the reasons I did that was that I was conscious of the letter that some of us had received from the Ceann Comhairle regarding Irish-Chinese relations describing the Chinese Government as our friends and advising Members of this House to have little or nothing to do with the Taiwan Government and its representatives in Ireland. I wanted to impress upon everybody precisely why it is that the people of Taiwan are so justified in refusing to be incorporated into a cruel, despotic and totalitarian regime.
I should start, perhaps, by saying that Xinjiang province is one of the most north-westerly provinces of the People's Republic of China, as it is now constituted. It was, until approximately 20 years ago, in the majority inhabited by Turkic people who were Muslims. They are ethnically and visually distinct from the Han Chinese. They have different customs, different language, different religion and a different culture in its entirety.
That province, what used to be called East Turkestan in some people's vocabulary, was designated an autonomous region of the Chinese republic in deference, when the Chinese people's republic was established, to the proposition that it was different from the rest of the People's Republic of China for the reasons that I have mentioned, and for other reasons.
Mr. Xi, now President of the People's Republic of China, from approximately 2012 onwards, initiated a campaign of repression and dissolution of the Uyghur culture in that region in Xinjiang province.
I do not want to be too lurid in my detail of the kind of evidence that has been given to the tribunal, but it is about time it was put on the public record of these Houses, precisely how disgusting and obnoxious what has been done to the Uyghur people actually is. Huge camps have been established in which between 1 million and 2 million people have been incarcerated for re-education. They are taken away from their homes. They are frequently shackled. They are forced to live together in dormitories. They are abused by their guards. They are subject to indoctrination. They have to sing pro-Beijing songs and they are beaten when they fail to show enthusiasm. They are required to learn and to become expert in Han Chinese, the majority language of the People's Republic of China. They spend hours and hours being indoctrinated as to the merits of the People's Republic of China, Mao Tse-tung's regime and the present regime in Beijing. At the same time, they are asked to confess the error of their ways in adhering to their previous cultural norms and values. A network of cameras has been established in the streets of most cities, which engage in visual recognition of people and make them all subject to constant surveillance. Some 800,000 children have been taken away from their parents and sent to Chinese state-run boarding schools.
Uyghur men are not permitted to wear moustaches or beards of any kind. Uyghur women are not permitted to adopt traditional Muslim or Turkic dress. Their language is effectively being run out of existence. Their religion has been crushed by the systematic demolition of mosques right across Xinjiang province. Their entire culture is being swept away as part of a process of assimilation into what the Beijing regime hopes will be a complete assimilation of the Uyghur population - what is left of it - as a homogenous population in the People's Republic of China.
Far more scandalous and revolting than all of that is the detail of what happens to those people who are incarcerated. According to testimony received by the tribunal, women are frequently stripped and gang raped. If they are pregnant they are compulsorily subjected to abortion. One person I was reading about was subject to an abortion six and a half months into her pregnancy. First of all, they have their hair shaved and the like and, routinely, the women are effectively chemically sterilised by having injections of anti-fertility drugs administered to them in these places. The situation for men is also pretty horrific. They are shackled, put into prison dress, brought to classes and made to chant and if they show any degree of resistance, they are severely punished and beaten. Some of them have been gang raped as well.
Worse than that, photographic evidence has emerged not merely of the scale of these camps, which is huge. They are purpose built. These are not just temporary structures or internment camps with barbed wire. These are massive structures that are visible from space. Worse still, hundreds and thousands of Uyghur men have been deprived of their liberty and sent in shackles, blindfolds and jumpsuits to factory locations right across China. This is happening in our time.
The other point that has to be made is that many people have simply disappeared. People do not know what happened to their relatives. They go into these camps and they never see them again. They do not have gas chambers but, short of that, this is on a par with the Holocaust as to the scale, deliberation and planning that lies behind it.
I want to draw the House's attention to pages 33 and 34 of the report which I circulated. It shows that between 2015 and 2019, the fertility rate and reproduction of Uyghur people has plummeted. On page 34 of the report in particular, there is a graph showing the decline in fertility rates of the Uyghurs. Their reproduction is mainly clustered between an increase of 0% and a -60% increase whereas the Han population is continuing to grow in their area.
All of these things are completely unforgivable - the abortions, forced chemical sterilisation, the brutality, rape, beatings, stripping, shaving and the exportation to forced labour across China of the menfolk. They have been documented at great length and with remarkable objectivity by the tribunal that established itself in London to hear the testimony of Uyghur people from around the world. I will give an example. One Uyghur woman was persuaded to go back to China by her Uyghur employer to settle up her pension entitlements and as soon as she arrived in Xinjiang province she was thrown into this system.
The tentacles of the Chinese repression go right across the world. Uyghur men and women in the United Arab Emirates are now disappearing into black detention centres where they are interrogated by Chinese diplomats and security officers and some of them have never been heard of again. Right across the world there is a campaign of destruction of the Uyghur people. Anybody who speaks out against it is ruthlessly followed and repressed insofar as the brutal regime in Beijing can do it, through its network of diplomatic staff and by whatever other means.
The Chinese ambassador to Ireland should not be welcome in these Houses any more because he has decried this report as untrue, false, unreliable and effectively propaganda and lies. He is a part of the diplomatic regime in Beijing which has systematically denied the obvious truth. When one is a Marxist-Leninist communist party with totalitarian habits it is perfectly reasonable to lie, falsify and deny the truth of anything in the cause of what one considers to be the greater good.
The Chinese Government, through its diplomatic services, has sought to discredit all Uyghurs in their resistance to what is being done to them and to deny the truth of what has been found against it. That is why I tabled a motion before Christmas, not merely to note this report but to accept its findings. It is all very well to note these reports, but it is about time that the Chambers of this Parliament consider where they stand on this issue.
It is not good enough any more to say these things are terrible or we support this motion or that motion at the United Nations but we avoid coming down on one side or the other as to whether the substance of this report is true or untrue.
That is why the motion that was put in my name, and those of my colleagues, reads: "That Seanad Éireann notes the publication of the judgement of the Uyghur Tribunal on 9th December, 2021 and accepts its findings." It is a clear statement to China that this Chamber was saying that we believe what is in this report, we stand by it and we say that there is genocide, within the international definitions of genocide, and we condemn what we see.
To my shock and horror - I have a feeling of complete disappointment and a sense of abandonment - the Government has decided to remove from the motion tabled by me and my colleagues that we accept the findings of the report. It does not want this House to do that. It has decided to put in simply that the House further notes "continued deep concern in relation to evidence-based reports on the treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang". It seeks to note "continued deep concern". That is not what this is about. People are actually being compulsorily aborted. Women are having IUDs put into them, which cannot be removed manually and require to be surgically removed. This is what is happening. To simply say that we note "continued deep concern in relation to evidence-based reports" is milk-and-watery pathetic language to use.
The amendment calls on "China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers". We know what is happening there. Putting in more observers from the UN is as about as useful as sending UN observers to Wuhan to discover how the Corona virus leaked from the Wuhan laboratory. Finally, the amendment urges "the immediate implementation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s eight recommendations related to Xinjiang."
The substance of the Government's amendment is to avoid, at all costs, this Chamber saying we believe what is in this report, this is what is happening, we accept the report and this is the reality, as far as we are concerned, of what is happening in Xinjiang. Am I surprised that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Government are taking this line? No, I am not because it is part of a piece of constant capitulation to the wolf diplomacy of the Beijing regime. We had it in the case of Richard O'Halloran where we went on our knees to thank China at the end for its assistance in getting an Irish citizen back from years of detention.
Am I surprised? No, I am not. I am certainly not going to accept this amendment and I am going to make it as painful as possible for anybody to vote for this amendment because it is a disgrace, a low point and an abandonment of what we are about.
I will finish on this point. We had champagne pops and fizz when we got our place on the Security Council. Fine, I do not make much of an issue of that. Hard workers deserve that opportunity but I make this point. It is a mockery to look for a place on the Security Council of the United Nations if the Government will not accept the substance of this report.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “December, 2021” and to substitute the following:
- continued deep concern in relation to evidence-based reports on the treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang;
- China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and relevant special procedure mandate holders;
- the immediate implementation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s eight recommendations related to Xinjiang.”
It gives me no great pleasure as a Government Senator to move this amendment. If it is agreeable to the House, I propose that, having moved the amendment for now, the Minister of State will speak. I may comment afterwards but I want to let the Minister of State deliver the verdict or response from the Department.
I think "defend the indefensible" is the phrase the Senator is looking for.
The Senator might say that; I could not possibly comment. I will let the Minister of State deliver the Department's position and then I might have something to say after that.
I note that Senator McDowell spoke for 16 minutes and all other Senators will now have six minutes.
Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí, go háirithe an Seanadóir McDowell ós rud é gur chuir sé agus a chomhghleacaithe an rún seo os comhair an tSeanaid inniu. Is ábhar an-tábhachtach é sin.
The countermotion my colleague Senator Horkan has put forward on behalf of the Government takes account of our deep concern about the situation in Xinjiang and the evidence-based reports referred to on the treatment of the Uyghur people. It also seeks concrete actions, including calling on China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access for independent observers to Xinjiang. We urge the implementation of the eight recommendations related to Xinjiang made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD. I will return to that issue.
Previously in the Seanad, the Minister of State, Deputy Colm Brophy, set out our proud history of supporting the protection of human rights around the world, including in the People's Republic of China. Ireland is committed to the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights and accountability for human rights violations and abuses. This approach is anchored in our firm commitment to international law and to agreed multilateral frameworks and bodies. Our credibility as an independent voice on the international stage is based, in no small measure, on our promotion and defence of the rule of law as framed by the multilateral system. That is why we engage wholeheartedly in the European Union and United Nations.
The situation in Xinjiang resonates with the Irish public and, clearly, the Seanad and the Dáil, and also the Government. We emphasise to the Chinese authorities their obligation to act in a manner that ensures the full respect for the rule of law and complies with China's human rights obligations under national and international law.
It has been three and a half years since the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination first published details of concerns relating to Xinjiang. The CERD expressed alarm at the numerous reports of large-scale detentions of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, to whom Senator McDowell referred, under what was described as the "pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism". We cannot lose sight of the obligation on the Chinese Government to respond appropriately and proportionality to whatever threats it sees. However, it must do so in a manner that respects the human rights of the Uyghur people. In fairness to Senator McDowell, the tribunal and the CERD, a UN body, found evidence of mass surveillance, as the Senator described it, restrictions on travel, forced returns from abroad to China and the banning of Uyghur language in certain prefectures.
There are also eight recommendations, which have become the basis for Ireland's engagement with China on Xinjiang. These include releasing individuals detailed without due process, conducting an investigation into racial profiling and analysing and reporting the ethnicity of individuals stopped by law enforcement. The report recommended the safeguarding of individual data, the elimination of travel restrictions and the disclosure of the location and status of Uyghurs who have been returned to China against their will. Finally, there as a call for the Chinese authorities to provide precise figures and detail on the number of people involuntarily held in extra large detention facilities. More recent reports suggest there has been no discernible improvement in the situation since the CERD report.
I understand that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, is finalising an assessment of the situation in Xinjiang to be shared with the authorities in China. For Ireland, this is a very important step, particularly in lieu of a national visit. Ireland and other like-minded countries continue to call for the High Commissioner to have meaningful access to Xinjiang. It is standard practice that the High Commissioner would only undertake a national visit with certain guarantees from the host government, including unfettered access to key sites and the right to speak to activists. China should facilitate the terms for such a visit without delay.
Ireland has spoken out bilaterally and in the multilateral system on Xinjiang. It is my firm belief that the best way to push for change in Chinese policy in Xinjiang is to engage with the Chinese authorities. Like the vast majority of countries, Ireland engages with China on various issues, including tourism, educational exchanges, cultural exchange, etc. We can do this. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, raised concerns with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during his visit to China in May 2021. It is equally important that we work in co-operation with like-minded states through the multilateral system to demand focus on this issue. At the 48th UN Human Rights Council in September 2021, Ireland joined an EU group statement of 26 member states calling on China to comply with its obligations under national and international law to respect and protect human rights, including in Xinjiang.
In October 2021, Ireland joined a cross-regional statement on the situation in Xinjiang delivered at the third committee of the 76th UN General Assembly. Recalling what Senator McDowell said, the statement to which we signed up calls attention to the arbitrary detention of over 1 million people in Xinjiang and the systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.
As the world becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the Uyghurs, and this awareness will expand as a result of this Seanad debate and that is very welcome, more and more countries have joined this multilateral effort. In 2019, 23 countries signed a similar statement. In 2020, this increased to 39 countries. In 2021, 43 countries signed.
In March 2021, the EU agreed on a global human rights sanctions regime, which allows the EU to target serious human rights violations and abuses by state and non-state actors worldwide. Given the EU's continued concern about the situation in Xinjiang, the EU has targeted four Chinese persons and one entity with an assets freeze and travel ban. The use of these sanctions is designed to act as a deterrent and encourage changes in these actors' behaviour. Sanctions are based on solid legal evidence and are deployed alongside other measures, including dialogue, to which I referred earlier. In response, China has put sanctions on EU academics, parliamentarians and diplomats. This constitutes an attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression.
Today the Seanad is considering a report by the Uyghur people's tribunal. The Department of Foreign Affairs has studied this report in detail, as we do with all information available pertaining to the situation in Xinjiang. I recognise the dedication of those who want to draw attention to the issue. I am familiar with the work of the World Uyghur Congress and consider the report a further contribution to our broader understanding of the situation in Xinjiang. I recognise the strength of feeling in the House on the situation. I will say this however. Notwithstanding the conclusions outlined by Senator McDowell, which correspond with similar conclusions of UN bodies, the Uyghur people's tribunal lacks due judicial authority to make any legal determination. It is not established by a sovereign state, an international agreement or an international organisation. It does not have any jurisdiction under international law. The Government is concerned about accepting the findings. This gets to the point made by Senator McDowell. Senator McDowell was quite flippant in what he said at the very end of what was a very good speech outlining the serious human rights difficulties. I have set out very similar concerns to those he set out in equally strong terms. I am also setting out that the Irish Government works within a multilateral system. If we go outside this it risks undermining the rule of law framework on which we base our international engagement.
Last week in the Dáil, we were asked what we were doing about various issues in the UN Security Council. People felt we were not doing enough. Today I have outlined a huge range of measures that have been taken by various parts of the United Nations. While our countermotion does what Senator McDowell said it does, in that it eliminates the final four words, it also adds on practical steps the Government proposes be allowed to be taken. Senator McDowell is looking for a statement making a declaration from the Seanad on this issue. This is a reasonable position to take. The Government is setting out many of the concerns he raised. We are not really apart on this. We also set out practical steps. The flippancy with which the Senator delivered the last few sentences of his speech is not appropriate in this context and does not reflect the work the Government has done and continues to do. The Government continues to speak out on this issue. Ireland's credibility as a global actor is anchored in our commitment to the rules-based multilateral order.
"Genocide" is a legal term that has a particular meaning as Senator McDowell knows. Ireland follows the practice of recognising genocide where it has been established by a final decision of a court in Ireland, by a judgment of an international court or where there is international consensus on the matter. The people's tribunal referred to by Senator McDowell has done significant work collating reports from different sources. I am not here to castigate the Senator or what he said. It is important to underline that while the tribunal is useful and significant, it does not have the standing and authority to make determinations of criminal responsibility. Neither does our approach to the people's tribunal undermine the seriousness with which we consider China's activities in Xinjiang.
Ireland has a wide-ranging relationship with China. We have strong engagement across the spectrum. We are anxious to build partnerships with China on a range of global challenges. While these strong links exist, there are serious differences in our relationship. The situation in Xinjiang is one. I want to be absolutely clear about this. I reassure the Seanad that in our bilateral relations with China and through our participation in multilateral organisations, Ireland will continue to pursue this matter and seek better protection of human rights for the Uyghur people. There is no doubt this debate in the Seanad will contribute to the awareness that is very important to move on the issue and bring more countries on board. Senator McDowell will note this would also be significant for the outcome all of us in the House want. The steps proposed in the Government's countermotion are practical measures relating to activities and actions taking place under the framework of the United Nations. We are very much part of the United Nations and a member of the Security Council. I will leave the matter to the Senators but I hope this clearly sets out the position of the Government.
I understand there is a lot of interest in this topic. To be clear, the guide we have is that at 5.25 p.m. Senator McDowell will be invited to speak again. Senators will have six minutes each and if other people wish to speak they may need to share time. I invite Senator Horkan to speak again as he did not speak after moving the amendment prior to the Minister of State speaking.
I thank Senator McDowell and his group are tabling the motion and the Minister of State for his response. I thought it was useful that we would have the response of the Minister of State and the Department to Senator McDowell's very clear and damning acknowledgement of what is happening in this part of western China. I certainly do not doubt the findings of what is going on. There are far too many people involved from different organisations, including the United Nations and the Uyghur Tribunal.
I take the point from the diplomatic service, the Minister of State and the Department on where we draw the line on accepting a report from a body that is not officially internationally recognised as such. However, I do not doubt for a minute anything Senator McDowell has said. What he has brought to the Chamber has done a service and not only to us in understanding what is going on. I have to say I would be fairly sure an awful lot of people in Ireland do not know the level of activity and oppression going on in this part of the world. Unfortunately, I know more about it now than I did before. It is absolutely horrific to imagine that this type of behaviour is going on unfettered. It is not the only thing the Chinese authorities seem to be doing. We know of its relationship with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, the Falun Dafa and even Christians. It has a particular style and approach that we would not tolerate or expect and we should not allow this House or any other House to say any of that activity is okay.
I would much prefer if the Department had felt it could have accepted what Senator McDowell had said. This is my opinion. I understand there are protocols in place and Government formats that need to be adhered to from its perspective. We have a relationship with China and we need to understand that relationship. The Chinese also need to realise we are not okay with what is happening in this part of China. We are not okay with the relationship with Taiwan. We are not okay with what is happening in Hong Kong and the guarantees it gave and has continually eroded since.
I was asked to speak on the motion on behalf of our spokesperson on foreign affairs who is not available. I do not pretend to be an expert on the Uyghur people or the region in China they are from. I take on board what Senator McDowell is saying and I am sure Senator Mullen will say something similar. I ask them not to take it personally. I am here as a person representing the Government group. It would have been much easier for me if the amendment had not had to be tabled but that was what the Government felt was necessary and sometimes this happens.
As a former Attorney General, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Senator McDowell knows that protocols must sometimes be followed and that things less than palatable must be taken as compromises. This amendment is trying to bring as much of Senator Mullen's motion on board as possible. It is acknowledges "That Seanad Éireann notes the publication of the judgement of the Uyghur Tribunal on 9th December, 2021" and:
- continued deep concern in relation to evidence-based reports on the treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang;
- China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, and relevant special procedure mandate holders;
We should not just be calling for that, we should be insisting on it, particularly in light of our seat on the UN Security Council. The amendment then urges "the immediate implementation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s eight recommendations related to Xinjiang".
We are not dismissing the motion and we are certainly not saying that it does not have merit. The Senator has done an enormous service by bringing it forward in this Chamber in order to allow us to have this debate. He can probably tell from the sizeable number of people here that not many are going to try to defend the indefensible. I cannot speak for all the Government Senators, but I know that nobody is going to defend the Chinese Communist Party regime's behaviour in this regard, nor in any other.
Many Government Senators, including Senators Malcolm Byrne, Ward, Joe O’Reilly, myself and others, have criticised these things in the past. It is unfortunate that the Government amendment to the motion had to be tabled, but I understand why that had to happen. There are other relationships at play here. We all understand the difficulties recently experienced in the context of the case of Richard O’Halloran. Indeed, the case might not have turned out as it did. It was a horrific incident, but, thankfully, the conclusion arrived at was better than the alternative, which could still exist for others.
I appeal from this side of the House to the Chinese regime, not that it is necessarily going to listen to the Seanad r the Irish people, but it should acknowledge that there is worldwide concern and deep concern-----
Any advance on that deep concern?
Senator Horkan, without interruption please.
I thank Senator Mullen. I appreciate his contribution. I do not particularly want to bring levity into this debate. It is not something I want to play political games with. What is happening is horrific. I have not heard what Senator Mullen is going to say, but I am fairly sure I am not going to doubt any of it, nor do I doubt any of what Senator McDowell said. The Government, the Minister and the Ministers of State acknowledge the concern which exists in this regard.
I second the amendment. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also thank the Independent group of Senators for tabling this motion. It is an important discussion. There has clearly been a breakdown of human rights in Xinjiang province. A systematic effort is under way to destroy a culture, a heritage and a way of life. While there is not full extermination under way, through the sterilisation process, abortion, etc., there is, effectively, an effort being made to exterminate a people. We are talking about something extremely serious here.
Before I comment on the tribunal, I will cite a few other sources. There is universal awareness of this issue now, but I will cite a few more sources, if only to read the material into the Official Report. On 12 July 2021, The Economist stated that 1 million Uyghurs “are in prison camps” and that people are put into those camps for the following reasons: “having contact with [...] relatives oversea [...] growing a beard”, showing too much of their own culture or religious behaviour, or anything that shows that Uyghurs are engaging in their traditions. The same article went on to cite practices within the camps, including “forced labour, torture and forced female sterilisations”. Frighteningly, one in ten Uyghurs has at some point been interned in these detention centres. This includes one sixth of young men and one third of middle-aged men. That is a shocking statistic. People are sent to the camps because of information obtained through monitoring using surveillance cameras, mobile phones and medical records. All of those sources are used as a basis to detain people. Pressure is being applied in so many ways. The article to which I refer also indicates that “16,000 mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed or damaged since 2017, around 65% of the total”, with 8,000 having been demolished.
Another source, USA Today, in April 2021 referred to forced labour camps, torture and it being a crime for Uyghurs to demonstrate anything to do with their culture. This piece stated that up to 50 people were being held in cells measuring 22 sq. m. There is a litany of crimes against humanity. Those in the cells are observed all the time by CCTV, and they suffer fingernail extractions, beatings, the use of tiger clamps, etc. I watched a "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 recently, which referred to people being submerged in cold water, confined in cages, the use of metal weights, people being raped and subjected to other sexual violence, the provision of bad food and the withdrawal of food being used as a punishment.
Researchers with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, using satellite evidence, have found that 380 detention camps have been "newly built or significantly expanded since 2017", and that there are more than 14,000 such camps overall. A report from Amnesty International has cited married women of childbearing age being targeted for sterilisation. Equally, the BBC had a special report on this issue on "The Andrew Marr Show". Meanwhile, The Washington Post recently urged that the pending UN report on abuses in Xinjiang be published, which is necessary, and referred to China only wanting UN human rights' officials in the country as visitors rather than as observers.
Turning to the report of the tribunal, which has been very helpfully circulated by Senator McDowell, it refers to detainees being "forced to take medicines by mouth" and "forced to provide blood samples and being subjected to other medical testing". This is all so reminiscent of what happened during the Second World War and the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime. The tribunal report continues by outlining how "Pregnant women, in detention centres [...] were forced to have abortions even at the very last stages of pregnancy". It also details how Uyghurs are subjected to intense monitoring and surveillance, and constantly so inside cells, and how "facial recognition and advanced technologies" are used to target people. The "Dispatches" programme I watched a few weeks ago described Xinjiang province as effectively being an open prison. The tribunal report also states, "Children as young as a few months were separated from their families and placed in orphanages or state-run boarding schools". The report goes on and on in the same vein. Senator McDowell very eloquently described the litany of crimes in his contribution. All the details can be read in the tribunal report.
One would like to have the time to read a lot of it into the record, but I do not. Regarding the amendment to the motion, the Government accepts everything being put forward in the motion. It is purely intended to state that this issue should be addressed through the UN and international bodies; it does not question the evidence of this tribunal report. In fact, this information correlates with all the evidence from the international media and Amnesty International. The amendment does not question the tribunal report; it only suggests the appropriate mechanism to address this issue. We will try to discuss this matter with as much consensus as is possible as the debate progresses.
I welcome the Minister of State. The last time a motion was before the Seanad regarding the treatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Government, my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile, spoke clearly and directly on this matter. Unfortunately, he is unable to be with us this week and he has asked me to step in. I will reiterate what he said on that last occasion. Sinn Féin is deeply concerned about reports of the treatment of the Uyghur minority in China. Those reports are very concerning and warrant urgent attention. It is believed that 1 million Uyghur people are in prison. This is totally unacceptable. Amnesty International has expressed its alarm at the situation, as has the UN. Like all minorities and all people, the Uyghurs should be treated with dignity and respect. They should be able to live their lives free from intimidation or repression.
For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to highlight the plight of those who face persecution and are denied basic human rights. Human rights are at the centre of our political mission. We have direct experience of what happens when a community is dominated by a political system which seeks to subjugate a people through discrimination, persecution and murder for economic, cultural and sectarian reasons. This is never acceptable and must never be tolerated, no matter where it is.
This State's seat on the UN Security Council will only mean something if it is used in support of repressed people around the world, including those such as the Uyghurs in China, the Palestinian people and anywhere else where injustice and abuse of human rights prevails. That means taking action and practical steps to support oppressed people, such as the Uyghurs and the Palestinians. It means using the diplomatic avenues available to us and leading by example. Seanadóir Black gave us a very good example with the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill, which the Seanad supported.
I would like to conclude by commending this debate and the importance of highlighting the plight of the Uyghur people.
Before I get into my speech, I wish to say how disappointed I am with the amendment put forward by the Government. We need to acknowledge that often official relationships, and working within officialdom, in a sense, can be compromised when it comes to holding states to account. People's tribunals have provided a voice to the voiceless to advocate for legal and institutional reform. They have the potential to contribute to substantial rule of law and they should not be seen as something separate from or outside of, but as another body that can hold to account the bodies spoken about in the reasoning as to why we have introduce this in terms of unilateralism, the Security Council and the tribunal not being official.
On 9 December, the UK's Uyghur Tribunal found the Chinese Government guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and torturing Uyghurs and other minorities in north-west China. Nine short weeks after this verdict, China welcomed the world for the Winter Olympics and the Winter Paralympic Games. Countries around the world, including the UK, US and Canada, have protested and engaged in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, citing the gross human rights abuses against Muslim ethnic minorities, which were confirmed by the 9 December verdict.
A date which could not be more significant in global history, 9 December marks the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and Prevention of this Crime. A date on which we, as part of an international community, think of the 1948 Genocide Convention, which was signed on the same day 73 years previously, and when we said, "Never again." The fact that the Uyghur Tribunal announced its decision on this day is, therefore, very fitting. It situates it firmly within the darkest chapters of human history. The Uyghur Tribunal implores us all, especially Ireland, considering our role on the UN Security Council, to take a leading role in publicly recognising the genocide of Uyghur people and, subsequently, taking the appropriate actions to show, rather than simply saying, "Never again." Unless we take real and tangible actions condemning the abhorrent behaviour of China's Government, we are tacitly encouraging this genocide and future genocides. We know there will be future genocides should this be allowed to slip.
The verdict delivered in the UK's tribunal is clear that the Chinese Government was responsible for deliberately lowering the birth rates of Uyghurs, indicative of the Chinese state's genocidal intentions. In announcing its judgment, the tribunal stated that it is satisfied that the People's Republic of China has effected a deliberate, systematic and concerted policy with the object of so-called optimising the population of Xinjiang. What the Chinese Government calls "optimising the population" is, by any other definition, genocide. This is a fact made clear in Article II(d) of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which defines the act of genocide as, "Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group".
Official statistics from the Chinese Government revealed during the course of the tribunal indicate that there was a 48.7% decline in birth rate in ethnic minority areas of Xinjiang. Yet, we have an amendment here stating we are deeply concerned. I am sure they are looking at us and are saying, "You can keep your concern."
As shocking as these figures are, they should not come as a surprise. We have heard them all before. It was only in December, on that evening, when many of us were in here flagging the same atrocities taking place in Xinjiang. These crimes were subsequently laid bare in the UN Special Rapporteur's report, which highlighted evidence suggesting that the Chinese Government has continued to use Uyghur and other ethnic minorities for organ harvesting.
What is most concerning is how these crimes are being powered. The report outlines the use of repressive AI-based technology used in targeting ethnic minorities in China. We know camera surveillance has become a feature of daily life for Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic minorities in China, both inside and outside the gates of the camps.
Testimonies from survivors and experts at the tribunal detailed that as the presence of cameras grew, so did the technological capabilities. Expert testimony at the UK tribunal detailed how companies, such as Huawei, the multinational hardware firm, and Hikvision, the largest global camera manufacturer, developed and tested technology that would detect a Uyghur from the Han Chinese majority. This facial recognition technology plays a role in tracking and eventual detention of the Uyghurs.
Earlier we spoke about this not being official but people are experiencing this. They are official, regardless of where they give their testimony. It is their experience and we should accept that, no matter what avenue it comes through. We should not dismiss it just because it is not official in the Government's eyes in terms of being the tribunal.
First, in co-ordination with other western states and allies, Ireland should stigmatise those responsible for designing and implementing repression in Xinjiang through strategic messaging and diplomatic interventions and boycotts. The US, for example, has issued increasingly powerful sanctions against China. So far, it has publicly sanctioned one government entity, about 50 Chinese firms and four officials in connection with the persecution of Uyghurs. Canada, under its Sergei Magnitsky Law, and the UK, which recently implemented its own version of the Global Magnitsky Act, called Global Human Rights, imposed financial and other restrictions on foreign nationals responsible for or complicit in violating internationally recognised human rights.
I ask the Government to think about its amendment, which removes the words "accepts its findings" and changes them to "deep concern". It removes the urgency, actions and seriousness of it. We should be calling for sanctions. Unfortunately, it took until Senator Joe O'Reilly raised this before anyone made an impassioned contribution about what was going on for people. The two other Government Members protested as to why it is putting forward this amendment. I did not feel any sense of the people that we are talking about in their contributions and it is deeply upsetting.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach agus cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit freisin. At the outset, let me say that I have read this report. It took a little bit of time because there is an enormous amount of detail, testimony and evidence in it. It is disturbing, in no uncertain terms, but it is not surprising, because this is not the first we have heard of what is happening in Xinjiang and to the Uyghur Autonomous Region.
There are Uyghurs living in Ireland and throughout the world, most of whom can never go home. They do not know what has happened to their families, parents, brothers, sisters or friends, as they can have no contact with them. What is happening there is unconscionable, indefensible and clear. However, nothing the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, said disagrees with that analysis. I never heard him say that this is not correct or not accurate. I know Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, one of the QCs involved in drawing up this report. I have worked with him and have enormous respect for him. I do not quibble with anything that is in this report. As extensive and disgusting as this is, I do not disagree or quibble with anything in it.
However, I also recognise that as members of the international community, we are bound by certain rules and conventions. The application of the rule of law being one of them, however unsatisfying that is. I would disagree with Senator Ruane in saying that the amendment that the Government tabled in any way diminishes the recognition of what is in this report. It recognises, unfortunately, that this not a report that the Government can accept, which I understand, however unpleasant and unhappy that is. I understand why we, as a Government and member of the international community that is bound by all of those conventions and rules, cannot wholesale accept it.
That said, we also know there are other more official and officially-based reports that are saying the same thing. I am not aware of any Government in the western world that is disavowing the contents of this or saying that what is being described in this report is not happening. We know it is. Senator Joe O'Reilly mentioned that many of the incidents he detailed were reminiscent of what happened in Europe in the past century. They are every bit as bad as that.
There are between 10 million and 12 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The number of them undergoing the most appalling conditions, treatment and suppression and the activities to which they are subjected are detailed at the start of the report. They include re-education, forced sterilisation, torture and worse. Let there be no doubt for anybody watching this debate. I spoke to members of the Uyghur community yesterday. Later this month, the president of the World Uyghur Congress will come to Ireland. I hope we will all have an opportunity to meet him. I know he will meet officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and high-level members of the Government, and that is appropriate, fitting and welcome. I congratulate the Minister of State on taking that on board. I hope we will hear a lot from the president during his visit to Ireland.
Any Uyghur, anyone who knows Uyghur people or anyone involved in this issue who is watching this debate should be left in no doubt that there is no one in this House who disagrees with or disregards this report or does not take it incredibly seriously. Let there be no doubt about the message we send. No matter what motion we pass, whether we accept the Government amendment or otherwise, we all accept what is in this report. We are all disgusted by it. We all reject the Chinese treatment of these people.
And condemn China for what it has done.
I condemn China. No one condemns China quite as much as I do in this House. I am a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which I co-chair with Senator Malcolm Byrne. We have been to several meetings with our parliamentary colleagues around the world. We are doing our best to bring a message to China that it cannot and must not continue.
The Uyghur case is perhaps one of the worst examples but the spectrum of misbehaviour by China on the world stage runs from that to the suppression of freedom of speech in Hong Kong, the threats against Taiwan and the restrictions on the Chinese population throughout that country. There is a whole range of ways in which China - which purports to be a member of the international community - absolutely disrespects and thumbs its nose at the rule of law.
Senator Mullen should make no mistake; no more than anyone else in this House, I absolutely condemn China. I have spoken in the House before in debates about China and I always make the distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and the government in Beijing, and the ordinary Chinese people who are our friends and colleagues in the global society and with whom we work, trade, meet and make cultural exchanges. Those people have done nothing wrong. It is their government that is perpetrating the abuse, the genocide and the horrible acts described in this report. The people I criticise are not the Chinese people but the Chinese Government, from Xi Jinping down to all of his cronies in Beijing.
What is most important about this debate is that we send out a clear message that we recognise what is in this report, we accept its veracity and we condemn what is happening. However, I also wish to support the Government amendment because it preserves our position as members of the international community. Let us remember-----
The Government amendment-----
-----that if we do not stand up as respectable and consistent members of the international community, we diminish our power on the world stage. We are not a great military or industrial power so for us, that power is soft. It is exercised in the Security Council at the UN, in our embassy in Beijing and in contact between the Minister of State, Deputy Thomas Byrne, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, and Wang Yi and other ministers in the Chinese foreign affairs department. That is where we can actually make a difference. We are never going to invade China. We will never stop this with military, industry or trade might. That is not a reality. However, we do have other powers and they are the ones we need to use.
On a point of information, everyone keeps talking about the amendment and saying they are bound by conventions. Nobody has actually told us the rules of the conventions by which they are bound. If the Government Senators want to stand over their amendment, will they all speak to what it is they are bound by?
There is no such convention. This is a manufactured piece of nonsense.
Point taken. I call Senator Boyhan.
I thank the Acting Chair. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I thank my colleague and friend Senator McDowell, in particular, for leading off this Private Members' business on behalf of the Seanad Independent Group. At many times in this House, I have used the analogy that we need to shine a light in a dark place. If ever there was a time to do this, it is today. As politicians elected, it is great to say, in a democracy, we have to be defenders of human rights, dignity and respect for people. We are wasting our time if we cannot use this Chamber, Parliament and Republic to advocate for people like the Uyghur people. That is an important point to which I and many of us in the House are committed.
I also thank my colleague for going to the trouble and taking the time to print the Uyghur Tribunal judgment before Christmas and to send us an accompanying letter, which I understand he sent to every Member of the Oireachtas. I sincerely thank him for that. It made for harrowing reading and set out a litany of issues, including forced sterilisation and abortions, massive internment camps, suppression of religion and culture, forced internal migration, slave labour and genocide. How can anyone stand here and say we are concerned? We are more than concerned. The people outside the House looking in will make their call. It will not be what we are saying or are trying to convince them. They will make their call. Are we true defenders of human rights or are we not?
The Uyghur people have been subjected to unconscionable crimes against humanity that amount to an act of genocide. The independent tribunal chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, has confirmed that to the world. The UK-based Uyghur Tribunal team hope that by processing, publishing and laying this evidence in the public domain, it will, with the international press, the international community and international human rights defenders, compel international attention and tackle the alleged abuses against these people, a largely Muslim ethnic group.
The tribunal report states that there is evidence that detainees have been confined in containers up to their neck in cold water, shackled in heavy metal chains and immobilised for months and possibly years. It states that some of the detained have been subjected to extreme sexual violence, including gang rapes, penetration with electric shock rods and iron bars. Women were raped by men paying to be allowed in to detention centres for that purpose. This is all clearly set out in the report. The tribunal found evidence of enforced abortions, the removal of women's wombs against their will, the killing of babies immediately after their birth, and the mass enforcement of sterilisation through the insertion of IUD devices that are only removable by surgical means. How harrowing and shocking. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur children have been taken from their families and placed in Han-run boarding schools. Burial grounds have been bulldozed or built over, mosques have been destroyed and religious practice has been banned. That is what this tribunal has uncovered - human suffering and breaches of international human rights law.
As elected politicians, people place their trust in us to be fearless defenders of human rights. Fearless journalists have highlighted this on the international stage and I commend them. I particularly want to commend those in our national press and the international press who have highlighted this. We need them; they need us. Words such as "uncertainly", "solidarity" and "hope" are used by many. They come to mind now. We must stand in solidarity with these people. We must use our Chamber, Seanad Éireann, to shine a light in a very dark place. We must be a beacon of hope and light for these people. Let us stand in solidarity and park our political difference. Let us forget about the scripts that come from Iveagh House. Let us forget about the different agendas. Let us send a clear message today to the international world that this is a priority and that we, Irish politicians, are defenders of human rights. We deserve that place. We have earned it in the past. We will continue to advocate for it.
I must say I cannot support these amendments. If I were a Senator listening to this debate, I would get into my car and get into this Chamber because, today, we will have votes and we will send a signal. Do we really stand in solidarity with these people?
I took the Order of Business the day Senator McDowell raised this issue before Christmas. I saw the motion on the Order Paper and suggested in good faith that we have a fuller debate because I had not seen light of or, indeed, read the report, and I was sure other Members had not seen it either.
I thank Senator McDowell for providing a copy of the report.
I am not clear from the report when or where the tribunal met. I am sure it was in secret and it certainly was not done under the eyes of the People's Republic of China or with its consent. We could not expect that and it is not the way that country operates. The report is factual and corroborates the international media coverage as advocated here by many Members. I regret that the Cabinet did not see fit to accept the motion. I am not sure if there was a full debate, although I appreciate the Minister of State was probably not at the Cabinet meeting unless he was invited in for this matter. There was a memo to the Cabinet and these things happen; I am not sure what level of debate took place.
The Minister, Deputy Coveney, would have presented it to the Cabinet.
The language and the descriptions used in the report are graphic and upsetting. We rightly acknowledge and commemorate the anniversary of the Holocaust and we read in our history books all that has happened throughout the world in different places. In our own living memory, we know what happened in the Balkans. We can look back on some of the documentaries, including "The Death of Yugoslavia" from the BBC, which is upsetting, very graphic but very insightful in what it says.
I accept this report, which speaks about crimes against humanity, deportation and forceful transfer of population, proved beyond reasonable doubt. The report states the evidence, "leaves the Tribunal satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the crime against humanity of imprisonment or severe deprivation of civil liberty is proved". It states, "The Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the crime against humanity of torture is proved". It states, "The Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the crime against humanity of rape and enforced sterilisation and which may include other forms of sexual violence is proved". It states, "The Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the crime against humanity of persecution is proved". It states, "The Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the crime against humanity of enforced disappearance of persons is proved".
There are references to matters that are not proved and this suggests it is a balanced report that was not a carte blanche instrument for everything brought before the tribunal. The participants have considered the matters and, for example, there is no evidence of mass killing so the crime against humanity of extermination is not proved. There is an absence of proof of the intended crime against humanity of murder and it is not proved. This report is balanced and based on lived experiences and testimony, as reflected by contributions of Members to this House over preceding months.
The role of the Seanad should be to give a voice to concerns and we would be found wanting if we did not do so. It is no fault of the Minister of State that the Cabinet decided not to accept the recommendations and pursue this at United Nations level but I regret that. We celebrated the winning of the seat on the UN Security Council - some more than others - but what are such achievements for if at times we are not able to make a statement of our views and what we think happens in the world? China is not a country that will establish a tribunal to see how the Uyghur population lives. It is not like a tribunal that we might set up on past decisions. We are a democratic country, faults and all, and we set up tribunals from time to time to look at things. Those tribunals report back and nobody doubts the due process and its validity, the independence of the Judiciary or retired members of the Judiciary that make presentations, or the barristers or senior counsel that are appointed. Such a process is not possible in such cases in China. Therefore, the Uyghur population took it upon themselves to carry out a tribunal into happenings - that is probably not a strong enough word - and the barbarity that has been visited on their population.
As I stated, our role should be to support motions. I hoped the Cabinet could give due consideration to this. Did the Cabinet members all read the tribunal report or did they just take the advice from officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs?
The officials from the Department would not have been present at the Cabinet.
No, but they would have presented advice to the Minister and in memos. It is safe to say that in my time as a Minister of State, I never wrote a memo that came to Cabinet. They are presented to Ministers and the Cabinet and agreed. Somebody wrote the memos presented to the Cabinet and it is regrettable it was not able to accept the findings and the motion put down by Senator McDowell.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I am not one of the people who generally condemns Éamon de Valera or de Valera's Ireland. De Valera was a very gifted man and did many things that were good. It is generally accepted that perhaps a low point was when he called on the German Embassy at the end of the Second World War, when Hitler died. To give de Valera his due, he waited until Hitler was dead. The Chinese regime bestrides the world, and it is when the regime is at its full power, perpetrating its many horrors, that the Irish Government, among other governments, kowtows dramatically to its will.
Ireland's approach to China is craven and sycophantic. It is not the fault of the Minister of State that he is required, by virtue of being in office, to stand up here and give a speech that is remarkable for all the words it does not use. His speech did not enumerate a single instance of horrors being perpetrated on the Uyghur people. The Minister of State encouraged the Seanad to amend Senator McDowell's word-perfect motion so as to avoid even commending the tribunal. I can see the Minister of State's point, or at least there is a case that can be stated, about how the Government might feel constrained and not be able to accept the findings. That does not justify the whip being used on Members of the Seanad or seeking to prevent the Seanad from accepting the findings of this tribunal. There was absolutely no reason for the Government side of the Seanad to propose an amendment to the motion that would avoid even commending the tribunal.
As much as I accept the sincerity of speakers on the Government side, therefore, I must say that by supporting the Government-inspired and required amendment, they are today being an enabler in the silencing of the horrors going on. I would go further to say the Government Members ought to vote with the motion as it stands. They are not the Government but Members in the Seanad and they are entitled to take a view on the authenticity and veracity of the tribunal's work and findings. The words missing from the Minister of State's speech include "horror", "torture", "abuse", "outrage", "condemn", "evil", "shame" and, perhaps most of all, "consequences". The Government is determined to use only language that is satisfactory in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party and its regime. These are the Government's weasel words, or if one likes, the Government's Uyghur words that we have had to listen to here today.
There are many references that are meant to be complimentary to Senator McDowell. It is indicated at the outset that the engagement on Xinjiang is not anti-China and as we challenge Chinese policy in Xinjiang, we do not seek to undermine Chinese sovereignty. It is like saying that as we kowtow to China's human rights abuses, we do not seek to remove Senator McDowell's right to speak, at least not until China might require us to do so.
Will the Minister of State ever say that China's sovereignty does not extend so far as to remove it from scrutiny and criticism of the human rights abuses in which it is engaging? Will he acknowledge that China is engaging in them? Will he go further than expressing mere "deep concern", hiding behind international institutions and saying we should let them in so they can tell us what is going on? Does he accept that China is perpetrating these horrors? If he does accept it, something more is needed beyond what the Minister of State delivered to us today.
I have often used in jest that distortion of the biblical line to the effect that meek shall inherit the earth by adding "If that's all right with you fellas". The latter characterises the Government's communications in respect of China. It does not utter a word without first checking that it will not offend the Chinese regime. As a result, it presents us with a highly and unacceptably sanitised version of reality.
I am glad to hear that there will be engagement with the head of the World Uyghur Congress. However, I expect the Government to use its access to the media to bring that gentleman and his entourage to the forefront during the days on which he might be in Ireland in order that his case will be fully heard. The Government could at least be an enabler in the context the message of pain and suffering and the plea for help that are coming from the Uyghur people. The Chinese Government, make no mistake, will be absolutely delighted that there is no free vote for Government Senators here today. That suits its playbook very well indeed.
I will make one final point. The Government is not completely dishonest about its true motivations because the Minister of State referred to the international trading framework. The Government is hiding its motivations, as it were, in plain sight like a purloined red letter.
I thank the Senator. I now call on Senator McDowell to conclude the debate.
Did the Senator read the speech?
Check against delivery. I am not faulting the Minister of State personally-----
Senator Mullen has had six minutes-----
The Government has a case to answer-----
Senator Mullen was not listening to what I said.
I will have it checked.
I call Senator McDowell. The Senator has five minutes.
I have been a Minister and I have been Tánaiste. I understand the constitutional position of the Government. The Government exercises the executive power of the Irish Republic, but that has nothing to do with whether this House can say that it accepts the verdict of an informal or a formal tribunal. The line purveyed by the Minister of State is based on a completely flawed understanding that this House is perfectly free to say that it accepts the verdict of a particular tribunal, formal or informal, national or international; we are perfectly free to do that. There is no constitutional reason and no reason in the diplomatic or international order why we should not do so; none whatsoever.
In the context of the Constitution, the Government is answerable to Dáil Éireann. It might be a different matter if the executive power of the State was to be subject to a motion directing the Government in Dáil Éireann to do A, B or C in a particular context or something of that kind. I could see a constitutional issue there, but there is absolutely no truth in the line in the Minister of State's script to the effect - and advancing the view - that somehow this House would be acting improperly if we indicated that we accept the findings of a tribunal. There is no-----
That is not what I said.
I am quoting the Minister of State's script which shows - and this is the big thing-----
I never said-----
Excuse me. Do not interrupt me. You had plenty of time to deliver your-----
I said specifically that I will leave it in the hands of the Senators.
I ask the Minister of State to stop interrupting. The simple fact is that he came in here with a script which was circulated in advance. The script was prepared by people in Iveagh House. It is a shameful script. To his credit, the Minister of State departed from it because it is so shameful. That is what has happened here.
In the context of China, Iveagh House has been pathetic. I was in Taipei - Senator Horkan was with me - I went to the European Union representative office there. I found out what they thought about Iveagh House in Dublin. We were by far the outlier in the European Union. We were the most nervous and timid people. We would not use their office for any purpose. On the last occasion when this was mentioned in this House, the Minister of State's colleague stated that Ireland has commercial relations with Taiwan. Iveagh House removed its office from Taiwan to Singapore because it was so afraid of the Chinese. Let us get to the truth and stop blathering in order to cover up the weakness of Irish policy in respect of China. Let us tell the truth. Whether it is yesterday's encroachment on Nepal's border or whether it is Taiwan, Hong Kong or Xinjiang, the one thing that stands out all the time is the utter weakness of the Irish Government, which has been reduced to using the formula of uttering deep concern.
Senator Ward stated that he accepted the veracity of the findings in this report. That is all we put down for him to vote for, namely, that he accepted the findings of the report, but he has been whipped by somebody in Cabinet. Senator Mullen is 100% correct. Senator Kyne is also correct. Somebody prepared a memorandum for Government saying it would embarrass the Government if this House accepted the findings of the tribunal. That is what has happened. That is what we are dealing with. It is a day of shame and infamy that this House should surrender to that kind of dictation from the Government of the State. I admire the Government Senators who have spoken. Every one of them has stated that they accept the findings of this report. However, they are being muzzled from saying that and accepting the motion as originally tabled because it could embarrass what we call our diplomats in their dealings with the Chinese people.
The motion that we put down was well measured and intentionally so. What we got today, and there was no consultation whatsoever with us as movers of the motion, is an amendment from the Government simply to water it down and make it less embarrassing to have dealings in future with the Beijing regime. I reject the Government's amendment and I call on the Members of this House to adopt the motion as originally proposed.
Senators McDowell and Boyhan have been appointed tellers for the Níl side. As no tellers have been nominated for the Tá side, I declare the question to be decided in the negative. The amendment is accordingly defeated.