Human rights ignored as govt pursues Chinese cash

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has criticised what he calls the “obsequious welcome of the political, business and media establishments” of the Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping who has been visiting Ireland.

The man likely to be the next president of China was given the full royal red-carpet treatment during a three-day visit to Ireland this week, while China’s hostility to basic human rights were studiously ignored.

Among other tributes and privileges, Xiping was treated to a sumptuous state banquet as well as a private peformance of Riverdance during his stay.

Dublin government officials have said they hope that the wealthy Beijing administration can help to sustain the Irish state’s finances, either through a loan facility, through direct investments or through the purchase of state assets.

Mr Higgins told Irish radio that the human rights abuses of the Chinese regime had been “completely airbrushed out of the saturation coverage” of Xi’s visit to Ireland, during which a protestor was bundled out of the sight of the Chinese bigwig.

“The reality is that this man is presiding over a regime that is vicious in its repression of its owns people who want more democratic rights, human rights. It’s a vicious prison house of exploitation for workers, for Chinese workers. That’s very well documented,” he said.

Mr Higgins added that it was “extraordinary” that there was “not a single facility for any questioning” by the Irish media who are covering the visit.

Speaking in the Dáil, he pointed out to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, that in his speech on Monday, “With a total of 2,247 words, you couldn’t find a single one to publicly demand the end of this brutal repression and the crushing of the people’s rights to democracy.”

Mr Kenny claimed he had raised the issue of human rights during his discussion with Mr Xi. “He made the point, in his response, that no country has a perfect human rights record,” he said. “That’s understandable.”

The Taoiseach’s comments only served to raise the alarm for human rights campaigners.

Noeleen Hartigan, programmes director of Amnesty International Ireland, said it was crucial the Dublin government makes clear the concerns of many Irish people about human rights abuses.

She said: “A minimum of 190,000 people are in ‘administrative detention’, many of them in forced labour camps.

“Human rights activists are targeted for harassment, arrest and some have even disappeared, while the use of torture is endemic.”

Practitioners of Falun Gong gathered outside Dublin Castle as the Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping was due to sign ceremonial agreements with the Taoiseach.

About 50 adherents of the spiritual discipline yesterday called on Mr Xi to end persecution of Falun Gong in China. They said practitioners had been tortured, imprisoned and had their organs harvested since 1999.

Ming Zhao, a graduate of Trinity College, spoke of returning to China as a student in 1999 and having his passport confiscated. He then spent almost two years in prison where he said he was tortured routinely. After extensive pressure from the international community, he was released and is now an Irish citizen.

“Words are very powerful,” he said. “And my release was proof that a small country like Ireland can make a difference. It can influence Xi Jinping to deal with the officials who are now imprisoning each other and who could do great damage to China.”

Mr Xi’s subsequent visit to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare was briefly interrupted by a sole protester shouting: “Free Tibet!” and “Stop Killing Innocent Tibetans!”

Garda police grabbed Sinéad Ní Ghairbhith and seized her “Free Tibet” placard before it could be seen by Xi Jinping.

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