I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 46 together.
Ireland, along with our EU partners, is closely following developments in China, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. As I have stated on several occasions in this House in recent weeks, Ireland and our European partners remain deeply concerned about the credible reports of the treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region, including arbitrary detention, widespread surveillance and restrictions on freedom of religious belief. We have raised our concerns with our Chinese counterparts in both bilateral and multilateral contexts, and, along with EU partners, we continue to do so.
Ireland was one of 23 states to sign up to a joint statement on this issue at the UN General Assembly Third Committee on 29 October. This statement called on the Chinese Government to implement urgently eight recommendations relating to Xinjiang made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, including refraining from the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and members of other Muslim communities. In July this year, Ireland was one of 22 states to sign up to a joint letter at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. This letter expressed concerns about credible reports of arbitrary detention in large-scale places of detention as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions. The letter called on the Chinese Government to uphold its international obligations to and respect for human rights in Xinjiang.
The issue has also been raised at EU level, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora, including at the EU-China summit and EU-China human rights dialogue in April this year. During the dialogue, the EU noted that while actions to counter terrorism are essential, these actions must respect the principle of proportionality, fundamental freedoms and international laws.
The Government is also closely monitoring the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. I am concerned, in particular, about the violent confrontations that have taken place. I welcome, however, that the district council elections were held on 24 November without incident and call on all parties to respect the election results. I also welcome recent moves towards an inclusive dialogue from the Chief Executive, Ms Carrie Lam, and the Hong Kong authorities.
With regard to the protests, Ireland fully supports fundamental freedoms such as the freedom to assemble and the right to peaceful assembly. As I have noted previously in this House, Ireland has consistently called for these freedoms, which are provided for in Hong Kong’s basic law, to be upheld. While the protesters' right to peaceful demonstration should be respected, we should not condone violence. Dialogue and engagement rather than violent actions will provide the best outcomes for the people of Hong Kong. At the same time, I continue to call on the police to exercise restraint and proportionality in its response.
Ireland fully supports EU statements on developments in Hong Kong, the most recent of which was released on 18 November by the then High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini. This statement recalled the EU's support for the one-country, two-systems principle and reiterated the EU position that restraint, de-escalation and dialogue are the way forward. It called for confidence-building measures, including an inclusive and sincere dialogue, reconciliation and community engagement and for a comprehensive inquiry into the violence, use of force and the root causes of the protests.
At a bilateral level, officials in my Department have engaged with the relevant Chinese authorities to convey our concerns, including with representatives of the Hong Kong Government. Along with the EU office and representatives of other EU member states in Hong Kong, we will continue to engage regularly with Hong Kong authorities on this matter and to convey our support for dialogue and a peaceful resolution to the protests.
Ireland and the EU will continue to monitor developments and engage with Chinese authorities and like-minded partners in bilateral and multilateral fora to address these concerns.