Thursday, July 16, 2009

No to Dublin Twinning with Beijing

No to Dublin City Twinning with Beijing

-July 2009
At the first meeting of the new City Council, I tabled a question to the City Manager in relation to the proposed twinning of Dublin City with Beijing which was first mooted last year. The invitation initially came from the Chinese capital and at the time many of the councillors felt that it would be inappropriate on human rights grounds for us to go down this road. It is important now that we make sure that this twinning does not go ahead.

According to the Dublin City Manager, this is still under ‘active consideration’. Twinning between two cities is an expression of friendship and the will of learning from each other. It is an expression of strong solidarity that goes over and above the normal trade and commercial relations between cities.

International organizations such as Human Rights Watch have continuously criticized the Beijing administration’s track record on the upholding of fundamental human rights. According to Amnesty International China's violation of human rights covers almost every aspect of society in China. 77% of all executions world wide are carried out in China. Hundreds of Tibetans have been incarcerated for peacefully expressing their religious beliefs. There are numerous accounts of torture and ill-treatment across all sections of society.

Irish people and the opposition parties should not allow the Irish government, when interacting with China, to continue the current practice of keeping silent on human rights abuses or “raising the issue in private.” Irish people have always stood for democracy and human rights and this campaign is an expression of solidarity with the Chinese people, but not with the Beijing administration

There is a myth that ‘twinning’ is a positive way to bring about social change and human rights improvements in countries with poor records, but this is not the case. When Shanghai twined with Cork in 2005, the reason given for the twinning was that the majority of councillors thought that only through dialogue with China can the human rights situation be improved. However, in 2006 this proved a false hope as reports broke that many hospitals across China were systematically harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners.

In Dublin, the last time this proposal was before the City Council, a few weeks later the first shots were fired into Tibet. Dublin City Council, as the elected representatives of the capital city, is an important political forum and those that we honour with twinnings or with freeman awards have to be above political reproach.

This is a bad move for Dublin and one that mustn’t be allowed to take place.