UK Parliament debates Human Rights in China
The UK's upper house of parliament, the House of Lords had a one and a half hour debate on the topic of "China: Human Rights" on 18 July 2001.
Lord Alton of Liverpool began the debate. He said: "China systematically uses re-education centres and imprisonment for religious believers and political reformers. These include political dissidents, such as members of the banned China Democratic Party, and anti-corruption and environmental campaigners. Suppression of the Internet, arrests, detentions, unfair trials and executions, the imprisonment of hundreds of Buddhist monks, Christians and members of Falun Gong, and the barbaric treatment of women and children through the one-child policy, must surely cause each one of us to question how we can persist with a policy of business, sport, and aid as usual. "
He also told the other Lords: "When I wrote to the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China in London, I received a reply dated 19th June from Zhao Jun, the charge d'affaires, who said:
"In China, religious believers have not been subjected to suppression or prosecution in whatever form. No religious believers have been punished for their religious belief or normal religious activities. They will be dealt with only when they violate the law. The policy of freedom of religious belief remains unchanged."
"But whether it is in regard to the Falun Gong, Buddhist monks and priests, Christian evangelicals or Catholics, all the evidence that has been accumulated by both the human rights group, the Jubilee Campaign, and by Amnesty International proves otherwise."
Lord Hylton also raised the issue of human rights of Falun Gong practitioners in China: "The Falun Gong came into existence from 1992 onwards as a result of the teaching of Li Hongzhi. He had studied earlier for 30 years under widely-respected Buddhists and Taoist masters. At first, his teaching was commended by the authorities. Outside observers consider that the teaching has given new hope and self-discipline to many people, especially to the rising generation, who found themselves growing up in a moral vacuum.
"However, since 1998, the state has abruptly changed tack, without giving adherents of the Falun Gong the option of joining a registered association. The whole security apparatus has tried to suppress the movement with ruthless violence. No public or private practice of exercises and meditation is allowed. Tens of thousands of these people have been sent to labour camps, often without trial. They are also sent to prisons and mental hospitals, just as occurred in the Soviet Union in its latter years. Torture and beatings are widely used to extort renunciations. British, Canadian and Australian citizens have been violently abused when visiting China for religious purposes.
"There have been some 200 known deaths in custody. Yet the persecuted--it is important to emphasise this point--have never responded with violence.
This totally unacceptable state behaviour continues despite international protest, notably at the UN Human Rights Commission. Earlier this year, I took part in a delegation to the Chinese Ambassador in London with other Members of both Houses of Parliament. One cannot help wondering whether Falun Gong fell from favour the moment that its membership equalled, or exceeded, that of the Chinese Communist Party.
"The key issue seems to be religious toleration, whether for Christians, Muslims, the Falun Gong, or the Tibetan Buddhists. Will Her Majesty's Government work steadily for this, remembering that freedom of conscience and religious worship are central to United Nations declarations and covenants? Will they seek the release of those imprisoned for their beliefs and religious activities? Will they ask for the abolition of registration as a means of control, and for the use instead of the criminal law against anyone causing public disturbances or harm to the common good? Finally, will Her Majesty's Government ask for a new, nation-wide law in China for the protection of religious freedom based on international standards?
"If reforms of the kind that I have mentioned could be achieved by the year 2008, China would then be seen to be in good standing as the chosen host for the forthcoming Olympic Games."
Lord Desai commented on the Chinese regime's weak nature: " It is not wishful thinking to say that China's inability to deal with the Falun Gong points to one of its system's biggest weaknesses. If it cannot deal with 10 million or so religious, reasonably non-violent, people and if it has to take extreme measures to control the Falun Gong--as occurred in Hong Kong recently--the system cannot be all that strong. I believe that human rights abuses will be brought to an end in China through an internal upheaval."
Baroness Amos, a UK Foreign Office Minister, was the last to speak during the one and a half hour debate. She said: " We consider that the human rights situation in China, although improving in many aspects, remains bleak. ... severe restrictions on the enjoyment of civil and political rights in China, especially the freedoms of religion, association and expression, remain. ... China also detains more than 250,000 people without trial through procedures known as administrative detention and re-education through labour. Leaders and followers of groups who are perceived to be a threat to the regime, including the China Democratic Party and the Falun Gong movement, are harshly treated; some are given very long prison sentences."
"The Government is not complacent about the dialogue process. We recognise that it has achieved little in terms of promoting positive change in Tibet and on the freedom of religion and the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners. The noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Lord Hylton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, all raised the question of freedom of religion. We are deeply concerned about restrictions on the freedom to worship freely in China. We condemn the harsh treatment of those individuals and groups who seek to worship outside the remit of the five official religions. We have pressed the Chinese through the UK and EU Human Rights Dialogues to allow for freedom of religious practice and to release prisoners detained because of their religious beliefs.
"... We are deeply concerned about the treatment of individual adherents of the Falun Gong movement. We press the Chinese authorities at every appropriate opportunity to cease the maltreatment of adherents, in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and we shall continue to press the Chinese to release adherents and leaders detained for political reasons."
"Our commitment to promote respect for human rights standards and to influence change through direct action in China is without question. ...We believe that the best means for pursuing change remains the human rights dialogue process."
She also stated during her speech "We have made it clear to them [Chinese authorities] that to be worthwhile and to continue, dialogue must achieve progress."
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