Geneva: UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) on Friday (June 26) said that UN independent experts have communicated with the government in China regarding the repression of fundamental freedoms in the Communist nation. The experts have denounced the repression of protest and democracy advocacy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), impunity for excessive use of force by police, the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters, the OHCHR statement said.
The experts have also communicated about the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations and the alleged harassment of health care workers, it said.
They have also “raised their concerns regarding a range of issues of grave concern, from the collective repression of the population, especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet, to the detention of lawyers and prosecution and disappearances of human rights defenders across the country, allegations of forced labour in various sectors of the formal and the informal economy, as well as arbitrary interferences with the right to privacy, to cybersecurity laws that authorise censorship and the broadly worrying anti-terrorism and sedition laws applicable in Hong Kong.”
“They have expressed concerns that journalists, medical workers and those exercising their right to free speech online in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic have allegedly faced retaliation from the authorities, including many being charged with ‘spreading misinformation’ or ‘disrupting public order’,” said the experts.
The OHCHR also cited the recent decision of the National People’s Congress to “draft a national security law for the Hong Kong SAR – without any meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong – which would, if adopted, violate China’s international legal obligations and impose severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region.”
“The national security law would introduce poorly defined crimes that would easily be subject to abuse and repression, including at the hands of China’s national security organs, which for the first time would be enabled to establish ‘agencies’ in Hong Kong ‘when needed’,” it said.
According to the OHCHR, the draft law would deprive the people of Hong Kong, who constitute a minority with their own distinctive history, cultural and linguistic and even legal traditions, the autonomy and fundamental rights guaranteed them under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ governance framework.”
“It would undermine the right to a fair trial and presage a sharp rise in arbitrary detention and prosecution of peaceful human rights defenders at the behest of Chinese authorities. The national security law would also undermine the ability of businesses operating in Hong Kong to discharge their responsibility to respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The independent experts also urged Chinese government to abide by its international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and withdraw the draft national security law for Hong Kong.
The experts believe it is time for renewed attention on the human rights situation in the country, particularly in light of the moves against the people of the Hong Kong SAR, minorities of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and human rights defenders across the country.
They acknowledge that the government of China has responded to the communications of UN independent experts, if almost always to reject criticism.
The experts also urged China to invite mandate-holders, including those with a mandate to monitor civil and political rights, to conduct independent missions and to permit those visits to take place in an environment of confidentiality, respect for human rights defenders, and full avoidance of reprisals against those with whom mandate-holders may meet.
They further urged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.
Unlike over 120 states, China has not invited UN independent experts to conduct official visits, said the release.