Ireland, along with our EU partners, remains deeply concerned about the treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the province of Xinjiang. We are closely following the situation, including in relation to evidence based reports of systemic abuse, torture, arbitrary detention, forced labour, forced sterilisations, and restrictions on freedom of religion and belief.
I raised our concerns regarding this situation with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during my trip to China in May. In that discussion, I outlined Ireland and the EU's position on the treatment of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. I emphasised the importance of allowing unrestricted access to the region to independent observers in order to make an objective assessment of the situation, particularly through the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ireland has also been actively engaged on this matter in the multilateral contexts. At the 48th UN Human Rights Council in September this year, Ireland joined an EU Group Statement of 26 Member States, which called on China to comply with its obligations under national and international law to respect and protect human rights, particularly in Xinjiang. In October, Ireland joined a cross-regional statement on the situation in Xinjiang, delivered at the UN General Assembly. The statement called on China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights”.
In response to the situation in Xinjiang, and under the EU global human rights sanctions regime, the EU unanimously adopted sanctions on 22 March 2021 against one entity and four individuals in China. The EU global human rights sanctions regime allows the EU to target serious human rights violations and abuses by state and non-state actors worldwide. It enables the EU to stand up quickly and in a more tangible and direct way for human rights, one of the fundamental values of the EU and its foreign policy.
In relation to the 2022 Winter Olympics, it has not been customary for Minsters or Minsters of State to attend the Winter Olympics in the past. No Government Ministers are scheduled to travel to Beijing for the Winter Olympics as was also the case at the Tokyo Olympics, given COVID19 concerns. The Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, will provide appropriate consular assistance to the athletes and their teams for the duration of the Games, particularly in light of the very complex public health requirements to be implemented at the Games.
The protection and promotion of human rights is a core pillar of Ireland's foreign policy, and Ireland will continue to monitor and assess the situation and, along with our EU partners, engage with Chinese authorities bilaterally and in appropriate multilateral fora to address our concerns.