UN rings alarm bell over absence of freedom in China

Pro-democracy protests over the implementation of Chinese security law in Hong Kong are being quashed by the government. This has raised concerns of UN experts over the restriction of freedom in China.

arms race

Dozens of independent UN experts voiced alarm Friday over the repression of fundamental freedoms in China, demanding urgent action from the UN Human Rights Council.

Around 50 special rapporteurs and other experts denounced the “repression of protest and democracy advocacy” in Hong Kong and urged Beijing to drop its controversial draft security law for the semi-autonomous city.

UN experts concerned over restriction of freedom in China

They also denounced “impunity for excessive use of force by police, the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters, the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations and the alleged harassment of health care workers”.

In a statement, the experts, who do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it, said they “believe it is time for renewed attention on the human rights situation in the country,” in light of the “moves against” people in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

They raised “grave concern” over the “collective repression of the population”, disappearances of human rights defenders, allegations of forced labour, arbitrary interferences with privacy and censorious cyber-security laws.

They also said journalists, medical workers and others exercising free speech over the COVID-19 outbreak in China have allegedly faced retaliation from the authorities.

Hong Kong security law concerns 

The UN experts said the national security law planned for Hong Kong would “violate China’s international legal obligations and impose severe restrictions on civil and political rights”.

It would also deprive Hong Kong of its autonomy and guaranteed rights, and undermine the right to a fair trial, they added while urging Beijing to withdraw the draft law.

They called on the UN Human Rights Council to act with “urgency” to monitor Chinese human rights practices, raising the prospect of holding a special session of the council to evaluate the range of violations listed.

 

They also said the international community should act collectively and decisively to ensure that China “respects human rights and abides by its international obligations”.

Human Rights Watch welcomed what it said was an unprecedented call for a special session of the UN’s top rights body.

Sarah Brooks, from the International Service for Human Rights, said the joint statement was long overdue but worth waiting for.

Read more: Hong Kong lawmakers vote Chinese security law despite strong condemnation

“The experts leave no doubt that behind the image China presents, the reality is deeply flawed — and that it’s time that governments who’ve preferred to stay silent take notice, and take action,” she said.

Lawmakers approved the bill with 41 in favour and one against, but the 75-seat chamber’s pro-democracy faction refused to vote and instead shouted slogans denouncing the law.

One lawmaker threw a foul-smelling liquid on the legislature’s floor in a bid to halt proceedings.

Others gave impassioned speeches denouncing the law, which carries up to three years in prison and fines for anyone who insults the “March of the Volunteers”

China warns international community to stay out of its business 

China accused the US of taking the UN hostage on Friday over a controversial security law for Hong Kong and warned Western nations to stay out of its internal affairs. Recent developments have shown that China is angry at the UN ‘interfering’ in its internal matter.

The US, Britain, Canada and Australia led criticism of the planned law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security, as well as allow Chinese security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.

China’s rubber-stamp parliament recently approved plans for the law, which followed seven months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.

The law will “guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviours that seriously harm national security”.

Read more: China angry at UN debate on Hong Kong

It would authorise Chinese lawmakers to directly enact long-delayed Hong Kong security legislation itself at a future date, rather than leaving it up to the territory’s administration.

“We urge the related countries to respect China’s sovereignty (and) stop interfering in Hong Kong’s and China’s internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.

He also slammed the US approach as “totally unreasonable” and said China would not allow the US to “kidnap the Council for its own purposes.”

“We urge the US to immediately stop this senseless political manipulation,” Zhao said.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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