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China: Human Rights

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made of the human rights situation in China following the conclusion of the Olympic Games; and if he will make a statement. (225063)

We remain concerned about the human rights situation in China and continue to devote considerable attention to encouraging respect for international standards. In certain areas, China’s hosting of the Olympics has led to improvements. For example, we welcomed the media regulations put in place for foreign journalists prior to the games and are encouraged by indications that China will maintain a more flexible reporting regime for foreign media. We also welcome the higher profile given to the rights of disabled persons following the Paralympics and China’s ratification of the International Covenant on the Rights of Disabled People earlier this year.

None the less, we were disappointed that greater improvements in human rights did not take place in the run-up to the Olympic Games, and are concerned that in certain areas reports of human rights violations have increased. We remain particularly concerned about the situation in Tibet, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has raised recently with Premier Wen and President Hu, and continue to urge transparency and substantive dialogue as the way to address the underlying human rights issues. We were also disappointed that the areas designated for authorised protests set up during the Olympic Games were not utilised.

We continue to believe that the extension of personal freedoms would be in China’s own interest, and we will continue to encourage China to meet its commitments to international human rights standards, including through ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Human rights will continue to be an area of major focus in our engagement with China in the years ahead.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the arrest of Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding on 24 August 2008 by the Chinese authorities; what assessment he has made of the Bishop’s health and the conditions in which he is held; what representations he has made to his Chinese counterparts; and if he will make a statement. (225064)

We remain concerned about the wellbeing of Jia Zhiguo, following reports of his recent detention on 24 August. We have previously raised our concerns on Bishop Jia’s situation with the Chinese Government: we included his name on a list of individual cases of concern raised with the Chinese during the 16th round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue held in Beijing on 28 January 2008. We continue to monitor his case.

We continue to be concerned that restrictions on religious groups and the harassment of practitioners undermines freedom of religious belief in China. We have repeatedly made clear that such actions are not in line with article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which we continue to urge the Chinese to ratify. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue with the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi when he visited China on 25-29 February.