Thursday, 28 March 2019

Questions (42)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

42. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to address concerns that China has developed a significant network of detention camps in its northern province of Xinjiang in which an estimated one million Uighurs, a Muslim minority, are being incarcerated; if he has raised this issue with the Chinese ambassador; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14565/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Irish Government has been closely following reports regarding the situation in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in particular, those relating to the detention of a significant number of Uighur Muslims in re-education camps in the region.

The protection and promotion of universal human rights is one of Ireland's core foreign policy issues. We take these reports very seriously and have raised our concerns 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 in November 2018, including our concerns regarding the situation in Xinjiang.

Ireland participated in China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), also held last November. 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 our intervention, in addition to expressing concern at reports of the treatment of ethnic Uighurs, in particular their detention in political re-education camps, we urged China to respect freedom of religion and belief and recommended that China grant access to the OHCHR to all regions of the country including Xinjiang.

The EU also continues to raise concerns regarding freedom of religion and belief on several occasions at bilateral and multilateral levels. During the last EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in July 2018, the restrictions on the Uighur and other Muslim minority populations were discussed. The next Human Rights Dialogue is expected to take place in early April.

At the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019, the EU raised concerns about the existence of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions particularly targeted at Uighurs in Xinjiang, and urged China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 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 our concerns regarding the situation in Xinjiang with the Chinese authorities, along with our EU partners and other like-minded Member States.