MFA Spokesman Says ICRC Office to Open in Beijing by July 2005

March 17, 2005

Foreign Ministry press spokesman Liu Jianchao said March 16 that "China feels positive about the opening of a representative office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Beijing, and feels that such an office will help promote ICRC cooperation with China and its bordering countries in the humanitarian realm." Liu noted that China and the ICRC had signed a Memorandum of Intent in May 2004, and that the government had asked the ICRC in March to renew consultations on administrative details. Liu said "China hopes to be able to consult with ICRC representatives this month and will strive for the establishment of the regional office by mid-year."

Chinese and international advocates for prisoners in China have long sought an ICRC presence in China, but previous efforts have foundered on PRC government demands that would limit the ability of ICRC representatives to work in China the way that they work elsewhere, particularly with respect to access to prisoners and prisons. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese government will relax its longstanding restrictions and permit an ICRC office to open and operate on the same basis as the respected international relief agency works elsewhere in the world.