Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1

1.   What progress has been made through the Berne group process in co-ordinating the human rights dialogues of EU countries with China?

  The UK strongly supports closer co-operation between Berne Process partners on human rights in China as a mechanism for reinforcing its bilateral efforts and those of the EU. We believe that there is scope for more closely co-ordinating engagement with China across the Berne Group, including on Dialogue themes and demarches, in order to reinforce our messages and increase the impact on human rights in China.

  At the most recent meeting of the Berne Group in December 2005, Partners agreed on a number of steps to enhance co-operation in order to make engagement with China on human rights more effective. This included greater information-sharing and co-ordinated action.

  The first joint Berne Process action on human rights in China took place in March 2006. Members of the Berne Group raised a number of individual cases of concern with the Chinese government. On behalf of the Group, the UK is undertaking on-going work to compile a database of individual cases of concern, using information supplied by Partners. The database includes details of when cases have been raised by individual Partners, and the response received. The aim is to increase the quality of future case lists by creating a store of accurate information which can be drawn upon by Partners in their bilateral Human Rights Dialogues with China. We see these actions as good examples of practical co-operation between the Berne Process Group.

  The next meeting of the Berne Process will take place on 21-22 June in Berne. Further co-operation between Berne Process Partners will be discussed in more depth at this meeting.


  The Berne Process is a regular meeting of those countries which have a bilateral human rights dialogue with China. This includes the UK, US, Canada, Switzerland, Hungary, Norway, the EU and Australia. The meetings began as a mechanism for sharing information on Chinese dialogues and case lists amongst concerned countries. But against the background of a deteriorating human rights situation in China, there has been increased interest in exploring ways of enhancing co-operation between Partners to make their respective Dialogues and broader human rights engagement with China more effective. There have been 8 meetings of the Berne Process Group to date.

2.   How are business promotion activities divided between UKTI, CBBC and the BCCC?

  UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the China Britain Business Council (CBBC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in China (BCCC) have different and complementary roles in supporting UK business in the China market. UKTI and the CBBC work in partnership to provide a range of business promotion activities for UK companies. These activities are divided between UKTI and CBBC by way of a Service Level Agreement between the two parties. This arrangement enables UKTI to draw on the CBBC's organisational flexibility, expertise and resource in China (and UK) to deliver a wide service in a cost-effective manner. CBBC has nine offices in China, seven in cities where there is no British diplomatic representation. CBBC also provides a range of independent services for UK business.

  The BCCC is primarily a knowledge accumulation and sharing organisation through its provision of connectivity and networking opportunities for its membership. The Chamber has a small paid staff and no desire or facility to replicate the work of the CBBC and UKTI.

3.   How is Government strategy on China coordinated between Whitehall departments?

  The FCO takes the lead in developing UK policy towards China and for ensuring that the work of other groups such as the China and Asian Task Forces are reflected in broader strategy. The Government's strategy on China as a whole is co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office. It arranges meetings of the Whitehall China officials group, which enables individual Government departments to feed in their views on the Whitehall China strategy and to update others and contribute towards a cross-Government detailed action plan on China.

4.   Please list the UK diplomatic posts and resources in China and Taiwan and explain how these are projected to change over the period of the FCO Strategy.

  The current figures for UK based and locally employed staff in China are attached below. The FCO is in the process of shifting resources to China to meet the challenge of its economic and political emergence. We expect total staff numbers to increase over the next five years particularly in key priority areas—Economic, Energy and Environment sections. Many of these staff will be seconded from other Whitehall departments. We also expect to enhance the presence of UKTI and UKVisas. There are no current plans to open new Consulates General in China as we believe resources are better deployed from existing sites.

CountryPost FCO UK
FCO Local
OGD Local
ChinaBeijing73 18027118
ChinaChongqing9 3000
ChinaGuangzhou18 4900
ChinaHongKong33 12252
ChinaShanghai19 5612

  There are currently nine UK based staff and 42 locally based staff at the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei. Two locally engaged staff are also based at the BTCO in Kaohsiung. There are no current plans to change these staffing numbers over the next few years.

5.   Has the UK signed up to participate in Expo 2010 in Shanghai and if not, why not?

  We are considering the Chinese government's formal invitation to participate in the Shanghai Expo 2010. As part of that process we are looking at how UK participation might be funded and we are discussing this with a wide range of possible stakeholders including government departments, other parts of the public sector, and many private sector companies.

6.   How does the EU implement its China strategy on the ground?

  The EU is developing wide-ranging strategy in China. Both sides are committed to strengthening and focusing their relationship through a new Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA—sometimes referred to as the Framework Agreement), which will provide the framework for a more balanced, mature and reciprocal strategic partnership. The PCA will help to reinforce key strands of the EU-China bilateral relationship (eg encouraging regulatory and economic reform in China, promoting rule of law and governance) and support further collaboration on global issues (eg environment and climate change, sustainable development, energy security co-operation).

  UK is encouraging the EU to take a long-term strategic approach to China. The EU-China Summit in Beijing in September 2005 and the first EU-China Strategic Dialogue, which took place in London in December 2005 highlighted considerable common ground and a desire to co-operate in a wide variety of areas. The EU has made clear the need for confidence building, greater transparency and for China to use its influence with problem states to bring about change. The next meeting of the EU-China Strategic Dialogue will take place in Beijing on 6 June and the next Summit in Helsinki in September.

  The Partnership on Climate Change agreed at last year's EU-China Summit is already bringing the Chinese into meaningful discussion with the EU, especially in encouraging them to shift onto a low carbon path. The Near Zero Emissions Coal Initiative (agreed as part of the Partnership), and which the UK has taken a leading role in, aims to demonstrate coal fired power generation with carbon capture and storage technology in China by 2020.

  The EU also continues to engage China on Human Rights, with the last EU-China HR Dialogue taking place in May 2006 in Vienna. In terms of practical assistance, the EU's Human Rights Small Projects Facility is managed directly by the Delegation of the European Commission in China and aims at supporting small-scale actions. Three calls for proposals have been launched. The first one resulted in 18 projects funded (all projects completed) and the second one in three projects funded. The evaluation process for the third Call for Proposals is on-going. Priority areas included protection of workers rights, participation of people in public policy issues, anti-discrimination (HIV/AIDS), rights protection of National Minorities, freedom of expression, and economic, social and cultural rights. The on-going projects focus on migrant worker's rights protection, gender discrimination in the working environment and anti-discrimination action for people affected by or living with HIV/AIDS. One example of EU activity includes a project designed to raise awareness of China's international obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), provide an introduction to the Optional Protocol and stimulate debate about the prevalence of torture in China. Another is the EU-China Legal Seminar, which is essentially a forum for EU/Chinese academics to exchange views on human rights and rule of law issues.

  The UK is also encouraging the EU to engage positively on trade issues directly with the Chinese. China seeks Market Economy Status (MES), but this depends on them meeting the criteria. The EU-China Working Group on MES last met on 11 May. The EU and China share the aim of completing the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations and the EU is encouraging the Chinese to play a more prominent role in the negotiations. Another EU-China Working Group deals with IPR issues and there is now a dedicated IPR Official based at the European Commission delegation in Beijing, running a Euro 12m IPR project covering enforcement issues.

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