Amnesty welcome OFMdFM 'first step' on human rights dialogue with China
Responding to news that both the First and deputy First Ministers raised human rights concerns with Madame Liu Yandong, a senior representative of the Chinese Government, during her visit to Northern Ireland, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:
"We welcome the reports that the First and deputy First Minister heeded our call to raise China's terrible human rights record with Liu Yandong. It is disappointing that Madame Liu's reported response to such questions was so inadequate, given that we know a crackdown on dissenting voices continues apace within China, resulting in the imprisonment of thousands of people – particularly bloggers, writers, academics and journalists.
"However, it is a missed opportunity that the First and deputy First Minister stopped short of raising individual cases such as that of Nobel laureate and poet Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year sentence for calling for peaceful democratic reform.
"It is also a shame that the Ministers did not speak out publicly about the concerns they have about human rights in China. It is possible to raise concerns in a manner which is respectful, but which leaves the Chinese leaders in no doubt about where they stand. Discussing human rights behind closed doors in confidential meetings seldom has the impact required, nor does it reassure the population here at home, that our leaders are speaking out about what matters to us.
"We await a response to our request for an opportunity to brief the First and deputy First Ministers in advance of their planned visit to China later this year."