Günter Nooke, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, left last evening (29 October) for a week-long trip to Asia.
This trip will enable Mr Nooke to attend the fifth round of the German-Chinese Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing on 4 November. Prior to the meeting, Mr Nooke will visit the southern Chinese province of Yunnan at the invitation of the Chinese Government, in order to see for himself the situation of minorities in the region.
This year's human rights dialogue with China will focus in particular on religious freedom, freedom of the press and opinion, administrative detention, the situation of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as international responsibility in the field of human rights policy. Commissioner Nooke will also meet civil society representatives in Beijing and go to a "laojiao" camp – one of the re-education through labour camps that have been the subject of intense international criticism.
The Commissioner issued the following statement prior to his departure:
"I welcome the resumption this year of the German-Chinese Human Rights Dialogue. The Federal Government attaches great importance to this dialogue within the context of its relations with China. This has been repeatedly underscored by the Federal Foreign Minister and the Federal Chancellor during their talks with the Chinese leadership."
Since 2003, the Human Rights Dialogue between the Federal Government and the Government of the People's Republic of China has provided an annual opportunity for in-depth exchange on all key issues relating to human rights protection. China suspended the Human Rights Dialogue last year after the Federal Chancellor received the Dalai Lama.
The Human Rights Commissioner will start his Asian trip with a two-day visit to Laos (30 October to 1 November). There he will meet Foreign Minister Sisoulith, Justice Minister Yiapaoheu, Deputy Prime Minister Lengsavad and other government representatives, as well as the Lao Red Cross, staff from the UN World Food Programme and development cooperation experts. His talks in Vientiane will focus on human rights and humanitarian issues.
The Commissioner is in particular keen to learn more about the Hmong refugees who returned from Thailand and about the humanitarian situation following the catastrophic flooding in Laos in August 2008. He is also due to announce that the Federal Government will continue to support the country's efforts to clear unexploded ordnance.
The Commissioner made the following statement:
"I welcome the Lao Government's announcement last week that it will sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo this December. This is an important step forward in the fight against this inhumane weapon category by a country that has suffered particularly under it. The Federal Government will continue to provide significant support to Laos for its efforts to clear the country of unexploded ordnance."
Over the period since 1997 the Federal Foreign Office has, through the UN Development Programme, donated 8.8 million euro to a local organization called "UXO LAO". Laos is one of the countries worst affected by cluster munitions in the world.