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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 701

Dear Mrs Irwin

Thank you for your letter of 29 October 2009 referring a petition submitted for the consideration of the Standing Committee on Petitions regarding the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. In accordance with Standing Order 209(b), my response is as follows.

The Australian Government has taken a strong and consistent approach to engaging the Chinese Government on human rights, including in relation to Falun Gong Practitioners. The Australian Government continues to engage China on human rights, including persecution of Falun Gong practitioners through the Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue, the most recent round of which took place in Canberra in February 2009. The next round of the Human Rights Dialogue will take place in China in 2010.

The Government has made the point to China that it is important to guarantee both freedom of belief and freedom of religious activity without state interference. The Government has also expressed concern about reports that the Chinese authorities continue to suppress religious activities which they deem to be outside the scope of the state-controlled religious system. This would appear to be inconsistent with the right of freedom of belief, including the right to observe, worship, practice and teach in accordance with that belief. The Australian Government has urged China to protect that right, and will continue to do so.

from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith