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UN express concerns over Hong Kong National Security Law

Seven UN human rights experts signed a letter to the Chinese government expressing concerns about whether China is complying with its international obligations for human rights standards. The letter, made public Friday, specifically questioned The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or the “National Security Law.”

As noted in the letter, sent September 1, the UN has expressed concerns regarding this law before and has exchanged several communications with Chinese officials about it. The UN members who wrote this letter also cited numerous obligations imposed by the UN requiring greater care in the passage of laws, such as by encouraging specific laws so as to “prevent ill-defined and/or overly broad laws which are open to arbitrary application and abuse and may lead to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

The National Security Law at issue was passed on July 1, and it went into force that same day. It specifies four categories of offenses that are said to endanger national security: “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements.”

Terrorism is defined broadly as including damage to physical property “such as sabotage of transport facilities or public services.” A UN Special Rapporteur released a thematic report in 2019 stating that “[d]efinitions of terrorism that include damage to property, including public property … seriously affect the right to freedom of assembly … [and] can be used against individuals engaging in social movements where damage to property is unwittingly incurred.”

In light of these and other concerns expressed in the letter, the UN requested a response to their points, an explanation of how the law does not infringe on the rights that China is obligated to provide under international law, how the country will be enforcing the law to not infringe on such rights, and the positive measures and oversight of the exercising of this law.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying commented on the UN letter during a press conference on Friday, stating “We urge [the UN] to earnestly respect the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, discard ignorance, prejudice and double standards, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.” Chunying also stated that the law is widely accepted in Hong Kong, despite the many ongoing protests against the law throughout the region.

China introduces new Hong Kong security law

China introduced a controversial national security law Thursday that could place restraints on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The law prohibits acts of “sedition, foreign interference, terrorism and secession.” China cited national security concerns for implementing the measure, but many warn the law will be interpreted broadly and cover protests.

China’s legislature begins its annual National People’s Congress meeting on Friday, where it could pass the law without deliberation from the legislature in Hong Kong.

Under the institution of “one country, two systems,” such a measure would need to pass the Hong Kong legislature. The legislature attempted to pass national security legislation earlier this year, but failed after being met with opposition from protesters.

The summer of 2019 marked a significant resistance to the Chinese government from pro-democracy protestors. The movement has since subsided in the form of public protest as the COVID-19 outbreak has spread throughout the world, including in Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy leaders are speaking out against the proposal and its procedure. “This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ … Beijing has completely breached its promise to the Hong People. A promise enshrined … in the basic law,” declared lawmaker Dennis Kwok.