Northern Ireland First Minister visit to China is opportunity to raise human rights
Ahead of a visit to China this week by Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, Amnesty International has called on her to raise concerns about human rights abuses in China - including the country’s widespread jailing of lawyers and its extensive use of the death penalty.
The First Minister is due to meet senior Chinese political and industry figures during the trip - which starts on Monday - including Liu Yandong, the Chinese vice-premier.
Patrick Corrigan, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said:
“This is an opportunity for Northern Ireland’s First Minister to raise the importance of human rights as a vital part of a fair society and a cornerstone of good international relations.
“We urge Mrs Foster to raise fundamental concerns about human rights violations in China, including the use of torture, the vast number of executions and the authorities' brutal repression of dissent.
“In particular, we'd like Ms Foster, as a lawyer herself, to raise concerns about the ongoing suppression of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists, and the case of the jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.
“As the Northern Ireland Executive continues to grow its economic relationship with China, we must ensure it doesn't do so at the expense of human rights and the lives of people in China.”
Human rights concerns in China
Freedom of expression is severely restricted in China and anyone who speaks out against the authorities faces harassment, arrest and detention. Torture is widespread across the country and unfair trials are common.
China remains the world’s top executioner – the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is considered a state secret, but it is estimated that thousands of executions are carried out annually in China, more than all countries still using capital punishment put together.
Hundreds of lawyers and activists have been targeted and branded as a “criminal gang” by the Chinese authorities in a widespread crackdown that started in July 2015 and continues to this day.
Freedom of religion continues to be systematically stifled. The government has recently been demolishing churches and taking down Christian crosses in the country's Zhejiang province.