According to a press statement, the European Union has raised freedom of religion and in particular the new regulations on the reincarnation of lamas during the latest EU-China human rights dialogue which took place on October 17 in Beijing.

The statement of the European Union from October 17 is reprinted hereafter:

On 17 October 2007 the European Union and the People’s Republic of China held the 24th round of the “EU-China Dialogue on Human Rights” in Beijing.

The Dialogue provided a platform for a substantive and frank exchange of views between the People’s Republic of China and the EU on a wide range of human rights issues. Taking place at the same time as the 17th National Party Congress, the dialogue was conducted in a constructive atmosphere and was an occasion to express concerns and differences of opinion with regard to the implementation of international human rights standards in China and the EU.

Key issues for the EU were reform of the criminal justice system in China, freedom of expression, freedom of religion in Tibet and labour rights. The EU and China discussed a number of specific items tied to the reform of the criminal justice system, including the need for China to ratify the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The EU welcomed the reduction in the number of executions in China following the review of death sentences by the People’s Supreme Court. The EU was pleased to note on going progress in the field of labour rights and employment. In a discussion that spurred the most robust debate of the session, the EU and China discussed freedom of religion in Tibet, specifically new measures tightening state control over approval of reincarnated lamas. China raised the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, as well as racism in the EU, as issues of concern, pointing to a number of alleged incidents of racial discrimination in some Member States.

Concerning cooperation in international organisations, the EU attached special importance to the renewal of special procedures in the Human Rights Council (HRC).and to possible visits of Special Rapporteurs to China. Both sides looked forward to close coordination on issues for the current session of the UN General Assembly. The EU welcomed China’s cooperation in the HRC Special Session on Burma/Myanmar and called on China to continue playing a constructive role in support of Ibrahim Gambari’s efforts.

In the framework of the dialogue, the EU troika undertook a field visit to Shanxi Province where it visited a legal aid centre, observed a murder trial, and discussed religious freedom with monks and provincial government representatives at a Chinese Buddhist temple. It also visited the Taiyuan television station and met with local representatives of the Communist Party of China.

In a side meeting, the EU and China expressed their commitment to continue the legal seminar, which both sides agreed added value to the Dialogue process by opening it up to academic and civil society participation. The Parties will now start preparations for the next seminar to be held during the first semester of 2008.

The “EU-China Human Rights Dialogue” has, with short interruptions, taken place bi-annually since 1995. The next regular meeting will be held in the first half of 2008 in Ljubljana under the Slovene Presidency.