Rights row hits plan to twin Dublin with Beijing
CHINA'S dire human rights record is expected to dominate an angry city council debate tonight over plans to twin Dublin with Beijing.
Councillors are to vote on a proposal to form official bilateral relations with Beijing, the latest in a series of attempts to twin the two cities over the last decade, in order to improve economic links.
However, Amnesty International has said that China has an "appalling human rights record" and has urged local representatives not to turn a blind eye to abuses in the pursuit of economic gain.
Plans to twin Beijing and Dublin have arisen a number of times over the last decade and have prompted furious objections in the past.
At present, Dublin is twinned with San Jose in the US, Barcelona and Liverpool with the relationships typically characterised by trade links and visits between the cities by representatives.
Amnesty said China was ranked as the "world's number one executioner", killing more people every year than every other state that uses the death penalty combined. Human rights activists there regularly face arrest, imprisonment and torture, said the group.
"It's obviously important that we build and maintain relationships with a country like China," Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland said.
"But this is also a government that detains hundreds of thousands of men and women in prison or under house arrest simply because of their support for human rights.
"China is also the world's number one executioner. The country has an appalling human rights record.
"Human rights must be at the top of any credible agenda for discussions with China. Otherwise, all we have here is a trade deal that abandons thousands of Chinese human rights activists to further abuse, terror, and torture."
Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen, who is in favour of the twinning, has met with officials from the Chinese embassy.
He said Cork's twinning with Shanghai had resulted in the southern city becoming the 10th most-visited destination for visitors from the Chinese city.
"I am of the view that, forget about the twinning aspect, this is about Dublin getting a trade mission over to Beijing and promoting the city region of Dublin to the city and the industries in Beijing. You fish where the fish are, you don't fish where the fish ain't," he said.
"This type of notional stuff about, the opponents would say human rights, we still deal with the States don't we? And there is some element of human rights involved in the States but that seems to be ignored."
Hugh Fitzpatrick, from the office of international relations in Dublin City Council, said the plan would be of benefit to the city as it would raise the profile of Dublin and form closer bonds with the Chinese community here.