China tipped UN experts on Friday that a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong poses a serious risk to the city’s freedoms and violates international legal obligations.
Beijing came under fire in late June after anti-democracy protests rocked the semi-autonomous city last year.
The law, which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, provides for a maximum life sentence and has silenced many protesters.
In a letter published on Friday, the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights warned that parts of the legislation “appear to criminalize freedom of expression or any form of criticism.”
In normally strong language, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to put down the allegations, saying the law “punishes an extremely small number and protects an absolute majority” in the financial center.
“Some people ignore the facts and maliciously slander China’s human rights situation … and grossly meddle in China’s internal affairs,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
“Stop interfering in any way in Hong Kong and China affairs.”
Hong Kong fell into chaos last year when pro-democracy protesters clashed with police angry at China’s alleged encroachment on the city’s freedoms.
The riots have subsided thanks to coronavirus restrictions and the chilling effects of the Security Act, which has arrested more than 20 people, including a prominent media tycoon.
The letter from the UN advisers – the first to be issued since the law covered the southern Chinese city – contained a thorough analysis of the damage done to freedoms in Hong Kong, enshrined in an agreement that preceded the surrender of the British by 1997 colonial rule was taken back to China.
The Security Act “carries a serious risk that these fundamental freedoms and proper process protection will be violated,” said the reporter.
The letter warned that the legislation “could unduly interfere with the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly”.
The rapporteurs called for China’s “review” of the legislation and the appointment of a fully independent auditor to ensure that it complied with China’s international human rights obligations.
They also expressed concern about one of the most contentious items in the law – which allows cases to be transferred from Hong Kong’s jurisdiction to mainland China – and warned that doing so could undermine the right to a fair trial.
The broad law criminalized certain political speeches overnight, such as advocating sanctions against China or greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
Lawyers for some of the 20+ people arrested under the law so far say police are sifting through historical actions by democracy activists to try to improve their cases.
The UN experts also expressed concerns about the definition of terrorism under the national security law.
They warned that this extends to damage to physical property such as transportation facilities – which goes well beyond the UN Security Council’s definition that terrorist behavior is aimed at causing death or serious injury.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)