Dear Ms (name omitted)

Thank you for your letter of 21 October 2002 to the Prime Minister regarding China's detention of some Falun Dafa practitioners who are relatives of Australian citizens and residents. I am replying on behalf of the Prime Minister.

The government is concerned by China's approach towards followers of Falun Dafa and understands the distress of those whose family or friends are in detention in China. We express our concerns about the treatment of Falun Dafa practitioners in China, including Australians and the relatives of Australian citizens, clearly and regularly to senior Chinese officials and government representatives.

The Foreign Minister, the Hon Alexander Downer MP raised our concerns with his counterpart, Mr. Dang Jiaxuan, when they met in March 2002. These concerns were also made clear during our annual human rights dialogue in August. The particular issues we raised included constraints on freedom of association, expression and assembly, cultural and religious freedoms; China's criminal justice system; the treatment of prisoners; torture; the death penalty; and the system of re-education through labour.

Australia continues to believe that our bilateral human rights dialogue is the most effective way of achieving improvements in China's approach to human rights. We are also offering China practical help in areas such as legal reform and minority rights. These activities aim to deliver real changes to China's handling of human rights cases.

Please be assured that Australia will continue to urge China to improve its approach to the Falun Dafa at every appropriate opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Jacqui McRae

A/g Assistant Secretary

Asia, America and Trade