© Houses of the Oireachtas

Seanad passes motion calling on Government to support Taiwan, denounce Chinese human rights abuses

The Seanad has passed a motion calling on the government to support the people of Taiwan; to request that the Government condemn efforts to stop the Taiwanese people from participating in international organisations; and to call upon the Government to condemn the treatment of the Uyghur population of Xinjiang by the Chinese Communist Party.

The motion was put forward by Senator Michael McDowell, although he said that the motion “is not tabled in my name or in the names of members of the Independent Group.” An amendment put forward by Senator Malcolm Byrne, adding references to human rights abuses in Tibet and the “erosion of the rule of law and the repression of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong,” was also agreed.

Senator McDowell spoke extensively about Ireland’s “sad cowardice” in refusing to deal with the government or people of Taiwan, and the “deeply unfortunate” fact that the “Ceann Comhairle, in his capacity as Chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, wrote to Members of this House urging them to bear in mind the damage they would do to Ireland’s interests by engaging at all with Taiwanese representatives in Dublin or having any ongoing political dialogue with them.”

The Senator also spoke extensively about an array of human rights concerns within China. He said he was not comparing what was happening in China to “what happened in Nazi Germany,” but that the actions of China amounted to a “form of cultural, religious and ethnic genocide” which was “deliberately being perpetrated by the Beijing Government.”

During the debate Senator Byrne explicitly referred to the CCP treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as “the Uighur genocide.” Senator Barry Ward made similar comments, saying “Make no mistake about it, what is going on there is a genocide.”

Senator Lynn Ruane spoke of her own experience visiting Taiwan, and noted that she, if she were a member of the Chinese government, “would not be too worried” about the Seanad motion as “every time Senators spoke about human rights abuse, they prefaced their remarks by referring to positive trade relationships.” That phrasing, according to Senator Ruana, “completely undermines the severity of what people are experiencing in China,” before referring to a recent BBC report about the systematic rape of female detainees in Chinese “re-education” camps.

The Senator stopped short of explicitly saying the China was conducting an act of genocide, but she did raise the fact that several countries have accused China of committing genocide.

Senator Vincent Martin also took on the trade argument, saying that “we seem at times to have a disproportionate preoccupation with, if not a deference to, trade.” He said that once the issue of trade arises in a debate “it seems to the public that principles are traded with economic trade and fundamental principles of human rights seem to take a back seat because people are conscious of trade.”

A second amendment was withdrawn by Senator Byrne “on the basis that there would be clarity in respect of the case of Richard O’Halloran.” Senator Byrne said he was “concerned” that he had not received “further answers on the case of Richard O’Halloran.” The Senator said that he been requested, by “representatives in Iveagh House”, not to push for the amendment.

Senator Byrne’s attempts to describe his disappointment about the Richard O’Halloran situation were cut off by Acting Chairperson Senator John McMahon several times.

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