The Irish Government has been closely following reports regarding restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and expression, as well as the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities in China.
The protection and promotion of universal human rights is one of the key values for Ireland and we take these reports very seriously and raise our concerns in an appropriate manner with our Chinese counterparts, in bilateral and multilateral contexts, and as an EU Member State.
The subject of human rights were raised and discussed during political consultations held with China on 1 and 2 November last, with particular focus on our concerns regarding freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.
Ireland also participated in China’s recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place on 6 Nov. The UPR is the mechanism through which the United Nations Human Rights Council examines and addresses the human rights performance of its member states. In its input, Ireland called for China to respect freedom of religion and belief, with particular regard to the situation in Xinjiang, and called for China to grant access to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to all regions of the country, again with particular regard to the situation in Xinjiang.
The EU has also raised its concerns regarding freedom of religion and belief on several occasions at bilateral and multilateral levels. During the 36th round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Beijing on 9-10 July 2018, the restrictions on Christians, Uighurs and Tibetans were discussed, and more broadly, the promotion of freedom of religion and belief, and the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
In June and September 2018, the EU delivered statements at the UN Human Rights Council raising the Union’s concerns regarding the deterioration of the human rights situation in China and calling for China to respect freedom of religion or belief and expression, as well as the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities.
The EU High Representative/ Vice-President mentioned this issue in a speech delivered at the European Parliament on 11 September 2018 and called on China to respect freedom of religion and belief in a speech to the European Parliament on 4 October 2018. The Spokesperson of the High Representative reiterated this concern in a statement on 26 October. Ireland fully supports the EU position, and actively contributes to its actions and statements.
Through our ongoing contacts with the Chinese Embassy in Dublin and through our Embassy in Beijing, Ireland will continue to raise the issue of human rights with China, along with our EU partners and other like-minded Member States.