As China proposes Belfast consulate, Deputy First Minister urged not to overlook ongoing abuses

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will today meet with Amnesty International to discuss China’s poor human rights record, amid proposals to open a Chinese consular office in Belfast.

Amnesty International will highlight China’s continuing use of the death penalty, torture, and concerns over freedom of expression when it meets the Deputy First Minister at Stormont at 3:15pm on Wednesday, September 12.

While welcoming the proposals for a Chinese consular office in Belfast, Amnesty International will focus on the Chinese government’s abysmal record on human rights.

Patrick Corrigan, Programme Director for Amnesty International Northern Ireland, said: "Any effort to strengthen cultural and business links with China must be applauded - but it would be wrong to ignore the serious abuses taking place in China.

"We cannot remain silent while we continue to see detailed reports of the widespread use of the death penalty, torture, and unfair trials.

"As China moves more and more into the international spotlight, we are determined to take this opportunity to shed light on the government’s repressive activities, in the expectation that Ministers will raise them with Beijing’s representatives."

MLA Anna Lo said: "We would be delighted to see a consular office in the Province, but we must also be alert to the concerns of Amnesty International."

"This meeting will help ensure that freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial and protection from torture are not swept under the carpet when we consider the issue of a consulate.

"One of the best ways to bring about positive change in China is through diplomatic pressure from abroad, and by encouraging politicians to raise concerns with the Chinese government."

The meeting with the Deputy First Minister comes ahead of an Amnesty International conference in Belfast this Saturday, which will focus on ongoing human rights violations in China, ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Amongst the speakers at the event will be Shao Jiang, one of the key organisers of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, which saw China’s democracy movement brutally repressed in 1989.

The plans for a Chinese consular office in Belfast were proposed in May, when China’s ambassador to the UK, Mrs Fu Ying, met with the First and Deputy First Ministers at Stormont.

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