HL Deb 10 December 1998 vol 595 c101WA
Baroness Gould of Potternewton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the human rights situation in China: and what has been the impact of United Kingdom and European Union policy. [HL216]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

We continue to have many serious concerns about human rights in China. During his visit to China earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary raised these concerns with Chinese leaders, as did the Prime Minister. Recently, the Chinese Government has taken some positive steps in this field, which we have welcomed, while repeating our desire to address issues of concern through the continuing bilateral and EU/China Human Rights Dialogues.

Since the commencement of the bilateral UK/China Dialogue, and the resumption of the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue last year, China has taken several positive steps which will bring about its closer integration into the UN human rights system, and should in time help to strengthen protection of human rights in China. It has: signed the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic Social and Cultural Rights; agreed to report to the UN on Hong Kong under these two Covenants; admitted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Robinson, as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and welcomed a possible visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. In addition, China has allowed a visit by a delegation of EU Troika Ambassadors to Tibet and accepted the participation in the Dialogue of critical NGOs such as Amnesty International. It is also noteworthy that the Dialogue has allowed us to discuss privately and frankly with the Chinese authorities a range of concerns from Tibet to the death penalty, freedom of association and torture.

Both Britain and the EU have now established substantial co-operation programmes with China, funded respectively by DFID and the Commission, and these seek among other things to promote judicial exchanges and legal reform.

We shall encourage the Chinese Government to ratify the International Human Rights Covenants, with as few reservations as possible, as soon as possible. We want to see further reform in China's capital punishment regime, leading ultimately to abolition, as well as improvements in its systems of detention. At the same time we shall continue to raise the cases of individuals, as we did on 2 December, when we expressed our concern to the Chinese Government at the recent detention of Mr. Xu Wenli, a prominent dissident. We look forward to discussing these and other points with the Chinese Government.