UN committee calls for review of Hong Kong’s national security law as gov’t says concerns ‘unfounded’
A United Nations (UN) committee has urged Hong Kong to review the Beijing-imposed national security law “to ensure the full independence of the judiciary,” after meeting to discuss rights issues in China, Hong Kong, and Macau last month.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said in its concluding observations, published on Monday, that the sweeping legislation that was enacted in June 2020 “has de facto abolished” the city’s judicial independence.
The committee also urged the abolishment of the national security hotline, and expressed its concerns over the handling of cases linked to the 2019 extradition bill protests.
“The Committee is particularly concerned about reports of a lack of transparency regarding their detention and trials, and the lack of access to lawyers during the proceedings,” the report read.
“The Committee is also concerned that the national security hotline is used extensively and might have detrimental effects on the work and expression of civil society, trade unions, teachers and other actors, including those mentioned above, working on human rights.”
The committee also cited reports of local legislation – such as those relating to trade unions and the security law – being used to “hamper the exercise of the rights to freely form trade unions.”
The Hong Kong administration was also urged to review legislation to ensure “the full academic freedom of students, staff, and other university staff.” The committee said it was concerned about reports of the security legislation being used to exert pressure on members of higher education institutions.
Issues relating to housing in Hong Kong, as well as the city’s Covid-19 response, treatment of migrant domestic workers, and gender inequality were among the other points addressed in the document.
‘Unfounded and misleading’
In a lengthy English-language response of over 3,000 words – longer than the Hong Kong-related section in the committee’s report – the government said on Tuesday morning that it strongly objected to the UN body’s findings, saying that the committee had “disregarded the explanations and clarifications” made by the city’s delegation.
The UN committee’s recommendations to review the security law were “not only totally unfounded, but also utterly perplexing,” the government added.
The committee also “completely took no notice” of the delegation’s point that the implementation of the security legislation “had reversed the previous chaotic situation and serious violence, and restored stability and increased public confidence in Hong Kong… thereby allowing the city to resume its normal operation and return to the path of development.”
The government also said that the recommendation to abolish the national security hotline was “unjustified,” and that the hotline allowed members of the public “to provide or report national security related information.”
A government spokesperson said that judicial independence, citizens’ right to form trade unions, academic freedoms, and human rights were all guaranteed under the city’s Basic Law.
In particular, the government said that the number of registered trade unions increased between 2019 and 2022.
“It is crystal clear that the free exercise of the right and freedom of association in the Hong Kong has not been jeopardised in any way.”
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