China says Tánaiste made ‘groundless accusations’ in speech

Micheál Martin accused of ‘interfering in China’s internal affairs’ because of his comments on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong

The Chinese embassy has criticised Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s foreign policy speech on relations between Ireland and China saying it “overexaggerated” the differences between the two countries.

It also said Mr Martin made “groundless” accusations related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong which it views as “interfering in China’s internal affairs”.

The embassy took issue with the concept of “de-risking” relations that has arisen recently in European Union and Irish policy towards China.

In his speech at a Royal Irish Academy conference on Tuesday, Mr Martin said Ireland’s relationship with China is valued, highlighting the €34.5 billion in two-way trade as well as “enduring links in education, in culture and in tourism”.


However, he also said “we must be clear-eyed about China’s strategic objectives and about what these might mean for the European Union and Ireland”.

He said China’s worldview is “different from ours” in terms of interests and values.

Mr Martin noted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s remarks about “de-risking but not decoupling” from China.

He said the private sector and academia need to reflect on “how they can continue to build valuable relationships in China in areas where it makes sense to do so” while also assessing “their level of exposure and identify areas where it may be necessary to de-risk”.

Mr Martin outlined other areas of importance to Ireland including maintaining the “status quo” in Taiwan, saying any change to its status would not be acceptable.

He restated Ireland’s adherence to the “One China policy”, which means Ireland does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but he said this did not preclude the development of economic and cultural connections with the island.

Mr Martin also said Ireland will continue to prioritise the preservation and promotion of human rights.

He highlighted an assessment by former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet of the situation in the Xinjiang region.

He said the findings were “stark” and that “the scale of the arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of the Uighur and other predominantly Muslim groups may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.

Mr Martin said: “Ireland’s message on human rights will remain consistent whether in relation to Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, or elsewhere – China has an obligation to act in a manner that ensures full respect for the rule of law.”

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also called on China to use its “considerable influence” to end Russia’s war on Ukraine.

In advance of his speech Mr Martin said he was not concerned at the potential reaction saying it was “fair” and balanced “in terms of [the] modern day global geopolitical situation”.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Ireland said it had “taken note of the positive elements of the speech that Ireland values its bilateral relationship with China and wants to work constructively together with China; that Ireland reaffirms it adheres to one-China policy”.

“Regrettably, the speech overexaggerated the differences between China and Ireland and emphasised the concept of ‘de-risking’ with China,” it said.

“It also made misleading comments on China’s stance on current international hot issues, and made groundless accusations against China on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong, interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

The embassy said it disagrees with “so-called de-risking”, adding: “The tremendous development of bilateral co-operation between China and Ireland over the past more than 40 years has fully demonstrated the fact that China and Ireland share extensive common interests.”

“The convergence of our views far outweighs our differences, and our co-operation far outweighs our competition,” it said.

The embassy added: “To simply define China-Ireland relations with fundamental ‘differences’ or ‘risks’ not only contradicts the positive elements within the speech, but also denies the achievements of China-Ireland relations and turns back on a brighter future for this relationship.”

In relation to Ukraine the embassy said “China always stands on the side of peace” and “its core stance is to facilitate talks for peace”.

On Taiwan, the embassy said that the “real status quo” is that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China”.

It said the “fundamental cause of tension” are forces promoting Taiwanese independence and that if Ireland “truly wants to see the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, it should unequivocally oppose ‘Taiwan independence’”.

In relation to Xinjiang, the embassy contended that the issues in the region are “not issues about human rights at all, but about combating separatism, extremism and terrorism”.

It said the region “once suffered deeply” from these issues “which seriously endangered the safety and property of the people there.

“It is the inescapable duty and responsibility of any responsible government to protect its people’s happiness and tranquillity.”

The embassy’s statement concluded by quoting the late John Hume as saying: “Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

The embassy said: “We hope that the Irish side will respect the facts, discard prejudice, and view China and China-Ireland relations in a more objective and rational way.”

Asked about the Chinese embassy’s statement, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Tánaiste’s speech focused on the critical importance of the rules based international order, in which China is a key stakeholder.

“It presented an opportunity to set out, in a balanced manner, a broad policy framework for Ireland’s significant engagement with China.

“The speech reflected the strengths and opportunities in the relationship but also the challenges.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times