Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responding to the Committee's follow-up questions to its Report on China

  We were grateful for the formal notice that the Committee intends to monitor progress in human rights in China when it next examines the Annual Report on Human Rights. We welcome the Committee's continued interest in this issue.

  Our responses to the various questions raised by the Committee are as follows:

With reference to recommendation 17, on the joint working group on ratification of core UN convention, the Committee wishes to know what pressures the FCO has exerted upon the Chinese to publish their forward work programme, and what response the Chinese have given?

  We discussed the structure and dates for the first meeting of the Working Group on the ratification of the two International Human Rights Covenants, during the last round of the UK/China human rights dialogue held in Beijing on 12-14 February. We expect the first meeting to take place in May and to discuss workers' rights and reporting requirements under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The first meeting will also seek to identify issues for future discussion.

With reference to recommendation 18, on Chinese ratification of core conventions, the Committee wishes to know what was the outcome of the most recent EU/China expert seminar: and whether HMG expects the NPC will have completed ratification of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by March 2001?

  The most recent EU/China expert seminar was held in Paris between 18 and 19 December 2000. Its focus was on administrative detention and trade union rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was not therefore the main topic. The Chinese side claimed that the legal provisions on trade unions in China were consistent with ILO Convention 87.

  The National People's Congress Standing Committee approved ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 28 February. It will be submitted to President Jiang Zemin for signature in the near future. At the same time, the National People's Congress Standing Committee made a declaration on Article 8.1a (which protects the right of individuals to join and form trade unions of their choice) saying that the Article would be implemented in line with the relevant provisions of China's Constitution, Trade Union Law and Labour Law.

With reference to recommendation 19, on the ratification of ILO Conventions, the Committee wishes to know what was the outcome of discussion of this in the EU/China human rights dialogue held on 22/23 February?

  The EU Presidency and Troika partners discussed the ILO Conventions, as well as UN human rights treaties, with the Chinese side during the EU/China Human Rights dialogue. They drew attention to provisions on the freedom of association, and its contrast with the lack of toleration of free trade unions in China.

With reference to recommendation 20, on EU policy co-ordination, the Committee wishes to receive a progress report on the EU's consideration of a line to take at Geneva and an assessment of the prospects for agreement between the EU and US on this issue.

  The US Administration announced on 26 February that it would table a resolution critical of China at the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva between 19 March and 27 April. We are working with our EU partners to agree a common position towards China at the UN Commission on Human Rights. We expect that one will be adopted at the General Affairs Council on 19 March, and will inform the Committee of its terms.

With reference to recommendation 25, on the Panchen Lama, the Committee wishes to receive a general report on the outcome of the UK/China human rights dialogue held on 12-14 February. In particular will the FCO renew pressure on the Chinese to release photographs and will it take up this matter in the context of the EU/China dialogue?

  The sixth round of the UK/China Human Rights dialogue was held in China between 12-14 February. This comprised two days of talks in Beijing and a one-day visit to Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

  The formal talks were held in Beijing with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the National People's Congress Legislative Affairs Commission, the United Front Work Department, the Supreme People's Court, the Prisons Administration Bureau and the State Religious Affairs Bureau. The agenda covered China's co-operation with international human rights mechanisms; ratification of the two human rights Covenants; Tibet, Xinjiang; Falun Gong; rule of law issues; the use of the death penalty; and freedoms of religion, expression and association. The UK delegation had meetings with the Ministry of Civil Affairs to discuss the Village Democracy programme, and with the All China Federation of Trade Unions.

  The Chinese demonstrated a willingness to engage in open and constructive discussion on all issues. There were encouraging signals of greater Chinese co-operation with international human rights mechanisms, including:

    —  advance notice that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would be adopted by the National People's Congress (this subsequently occurred on 28 February) and confirmation that an initial report to the International Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was already being prepared;

    —  agreement to hold an early meeting of the bilateral working group on the ratification of the UN Covenants;

    —  indications that a further meeting would be sought with Sir Nigel Rodley, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to discuss the terms for a visit to China;

    —  an open invitation to other special rapporteurs to visit China;

    —  plans to hold talks in early March with the International Committee of the Red Cross on a possible prison visiting programme;

    —  the holding of the first seminar (on minor crimes) under the MOU signed with the UN High Commission for Human Rights on 20 November 2000.

  The Chinese side also demonstrated a willingness to seek UK expertise and assistance in a number of important areas. They recognised that the system of administrative detention was not compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which they signed in 1998. We are seeking to identify ways to assist in reforming the system, building on the seminar attended in February by Mary Robinson. We also agreed to identify areas where further engagement, including a second visit by representatives of the Foreign Secretary's Death Penalty Panel, could move China towards abolition of capital punishment.

  As in previous rounds, the UK Delegation raised individual cases of concern. 28 cases were raised: Chadrel Rinpoche, Chen Gang, Gao Xiaoliang, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Kang Yuchun, Liu Jingsheng, Ngawang Choephel; Ngawang Sangdrol; Abidjan Obulkasim; Zha Jianguo, Gao Hongming, Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, Li Dexian, Jiang Qisheng, Rebiya Kadeer, Waang Ce, Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Jelil Turdi, Zhang Shanguang, Jiang Shurang, Bishop James Su Zhimin, Huang Qi, Zhao Ming, Wenliang Liang and Abdulhelil Abdumijit.

  During the visit to Wenzhou, the UK delegation was able to examine and discuss with the Wenzhou authorities the background to international media reports of destruction of churches and temples as part of an urban redevelopment programme.

  The case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Dalai Lama's choice as Panchen Lama, was again raised in some depth during the recent round of the UK/China human rights dialogue. We pressed them to release photographs of the boy to help assure the international community that he was alive and well. We also pressed them to allow access to him by an independent figure or organisation such as the office of the UN Commission on Human Rights or the ICRC to verify his health and living conditions. In response the Chinese side said the boy's parents would not allow the photographs to be released but they would ask them if they would allow a visit as suggested by the UK side, but cautioned that they expected them to decline.

  We will continue to seek the inclusion of the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in future rounds of the EU/China human rights dialogue, including access and the release of photographs.

With reference to recommendation 30, on commercial considerations, what would be HMG's position if China retaliated against UK interests in a way which was incompatible with WTO rules after it has joined WTO?

  WTO membership involves obligations as well as rights. Once China is a member of the WTO, she will be bound by the terms of her accession and WTO rules. The WTO agreements include a dispute settlement procedure to resolve disputes between members on the application of WTO agreements. If the UK's interests were being harmed in contravention of WTO rules, HMG, in consultation with the European Commission, would consider what action to take in the light of all the facts of the case.

With reference to recommendation 33, on the post in Chongqing, your response suggests that a cost benefit analysis at this stage would be premature. Will you review this not later than 12 months from now?

  The FCO in conjunction with Trade Partners UK will review in 12 months whether a cost benefit analysis of the office in Chongqing should be undertaken. We will advise the Committee on the outcome of the review.

With reference to recommendation 35, on a long-term trade and investment strategy, may the Committee receive a report on the outcome of the review carried out by Trade Partners UK in November/December 2000?

  The trade and investment strategy for China developed by Trade Partners UK recognised that official support for business in the UK and China needed to be organised in a more focused and targeted way if it was to provide maximum added value on behalf of British companies' efforts in China. In particular it was essential to remove overlap in the activities of the bodies involved. In November/December 2000 the International Management Directorate of Trade Partners UK carried out a review of commercial work in China.

  The terms of reference for this review were:

    —  Review the responsibilities, organisation, direction, management and establishment of the trade promotion work of the diplomatic posts in Peking, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing.

    —  In the light of the recommendations of the "China Trade and Investment Promotion Strategy" on the working relationship with the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), review the implications for the organisation and management of commercial sections.

    —  Judge whether staffing levels reflected both current and possible future activity, and recommend any changes necessary to enable objectives to be met in an efficient manner.

  The review made a number of recommendations, primarily on the organisation and management of China trade promotion work. These addressed in particular the removal of overlap between the work done by Trade Partners UK in the UK and by the Embassy and Consulates General in China and by the CBBC in the UK and through its office network in China. The review also made comments or recommendations on the direction of that work and the staffing implications. These included:

    The need for a higher degree of priority sector focus and for the Shanghai and Guangzhou Consulates General to lead on some sectors. The sectors should match UK strengths to Chinese priorities and market opportunities.

    The relationship between the official service and China-Britain Business Council is good, but could be improved in some areas. Both organisations have their own strengths that should be used to complement each other, thus providing British business with the best possible advice and information on the market. Closer liaison between TPUK and CBBC operations in the UK including regular liaison/strategy meetings was central to this.

    Officially supported Trade Missions and Fairs should be closely monitored with a view to better targeting of available funds. Ineffective organisers should not be funded unless they improved and demonstrated that they were capable of organising good events or running good missions to China.

    A business mentoring service for outward customers should be explored.

    Commercial publicity within China should be increased.

    Opening more Diplomatic Post or CBBC Offices in China would largely be dictated by the availability of funds which would have to be considered against worldwide demand and market opportunities.


    The position of country manager resident in China (Chief Representative) had lain vacant since Spring 2000. It was recommended that it be filled (NB appointment to be made soon).

    Suggest the CBBC office in Guangzhou be located elsewhere to maximise the geographical spread of support available to British business. (NB this has been accepted by the CBBC and will be implemented over the next few months)

    The CBBC's Launchpad scheme (incubators for companies new to the market) is extremely valuable; a number of recommendations for its improvement were made.

    The CBBC's relationship with the China Markets Unit of Trade Partners UK is crucial for the effective functioning of both organisations and for business receiving properly co-ordinated advice and assistance. Even closer co-ordination was recommended.

With reference to recommendation 356, on WTO obligations, what progress has been made on establishing the Transitional Review Mechanism?

  The principle of including in the terms of China's accession to the WTO a Transitional Review Mechanism to monitor China's implementation of her obligations has been accepted by all the members of the working party. The terms of the Review Mechanism will form part of the overall package that will be agreed by all WTO members.

With reference to recommendation 41, on Mr Wu Man, what progress has been made with Mr Wu's case?

  Wu Man was tried on 23 June and sentenced to 13 years in prison. There have been no further reported developments regarding his detention. Since Mr Wu is a British National (Overseas) passport holder and a Chinese national we have no formal locus to intervene on his behalf. (The same applies to any British dual national who is detained by the authorities in the country of his/her second nationality.) Our previous requests to the Chinese authorities for our consular officials to visit Mr Wu were turned down on each occasion.

  The British Consulate-General in Hong Kong remains ready to offer whatever informal assistance it can to Mr Wu's family but to date the Consulate-General has received no further information or requests for assistance. We will continue to monitor Mr Wu's case as far as we are able, given the constraints of the consular conventions and the Exchange of Memoranda attached to the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. We will take whatever action is necessary and possible in the circumstances.

With reference to recommendation 51, on jamming of the BBC, what has been the Chinese response to Mrs Hewitt's representations and to any subsequent representations?

  Mrs Patricia Hewitt MP raised the blocking of the BBC website with Minister of Information Industries Mr Wu Jichuan during her visit to China in January 2001. On 19 January, Her Majesty's Ambassador in Beijing raised both the blocking of the website and the jamming of the BBC's Chinese language broadcasts at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chinese authorities denied that there was any official jamming of the BBC World Service or that there was a policy of blocking the website. The issue was subsequently taken up by the British delegation to the sixth round of the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing on 12-14 February. The delegation handed over technical data provided by the BBC which the Chinese side agreed to study.

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