Foreign Affairs and Trade
November 23, 2001
Dear Mr Wang
Thank you for your email of 21 September 2001 to the Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, concerning the treatment of Falungong practitioners in China. As the matters you raised fall within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Downer, your letter was referred to him for his consideration. I have been asked to reply on behalf of Mr. Downer. I apologize for the delay in replying.
While the Australian Government takes no position in the doctrine or practices of Falungong, it considers that the ban by the Chinese Government on Falungong breaches fundamental rights of assembly and free expression. The Government also believes that the Chinese Government's maltreatment of Falungong practitioners in China contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), WHICH China has signed, but not yet ratified, as well as the Conversion Against Torture. We have repeatedly urged China to ratify the ICCPR as soon as possible, and with a minimum of reservations.
The Australian Government continues to express these concerns to Chinese Government at the highest levels. Mr. Downer has personally raised the Government's concerns with his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan. The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Alston, and the former Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Wooldridge, have also raised the issue of human rights during their to China in the last year.
Most recently, the Government's concerns were also taken up directly by the Australian delegation to the annual bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, which was held in Beijing from 29 October to 2 November 2001. Particular concerns 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 "Reeducation through Labour". While the Chinese response to particular claims of mistreatment of Falungong members did not suggest and casing of its stance was likely in the near future, the delegation received Chinese assurances that efforts are under way to review the relevant laws to remove the scope and incentive for the use of torture in the investigation of crimes.
Please be assured that the Australian Government will pursue human rights issues in China, including persecution of Falungong practitioners, for as long as necessary.
Thank you for bringing your views to the attention of Government.
China Political and External Section
North Asia Division