Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a) through (e), Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders are designed to support Canadian missions and Global Affairs Canada’s headquarters in advancing the work of human rights defenders. The guidelines are an important tool in the promotion and protection of human rights as an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy and a long-standing priority in our relationship with China. We have consistently and regularly expressed our concerns about the human rights situation in China and have specifically advocated for the protection of human rights defenders, including those in the Tibet Autonomous Region, TAR. We have expressed concerns about the restrictions on the freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedoms of religion and belief of ethnic Tibetans.
As was done during the Prime Minister’s first official visit to China, Canada will continue to have frank discussions with China on respect for human rights and the rule of law, including in relation to religious freedom and the situation in Tibet.
Senior officials of the Embassy of Canada have undertaken several diplomatic visits to TAR. Canada will continue to seek greater access to Tibet for our diplomats, parliamentarians, NGOs, and visiting delegations. Canadian diplomats require permission from Chinese authorities to visit the TAR. Allowing foreign diplomats and journalists unimpeded and regular access to Tibetan areas would allow us to better understand the realities on the ground.
Canada has requested that China provide information on the location of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his parents, the level of education that Gedhun has completed, and the expected date for his return along with his parents.
After persistent requests from the international community and Tibetan advocates, on September 6, 2015, Chinese officials responded that the Panchen Lama, then 26 years old, is living under China’s control. “The reincarnated child Panchen Lama you mentioned is being educated, living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed,” said Norbu Dunzhub, a member of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s United Front Work Department.
The Government of China has not communicated that it considers the actions of Canadian diplomats with respect to the Panchen Lama to be incompatible with their status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Canada has called on China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
In the context of our bilateral relationship with China, the guidelines provide the basis for us to continue to examine opportunities for further collaboration in the protection and advancement of the work of human rights defenders, including in TAR. The Government of Canada will continue to urge the Government of China to respect the rights of ethnic Tibetans and to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Tibetan areas.