10 December 2023 - Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The declaration is an international document encompassing the freedoms with which all human beings should have in order to prevent conflict and gross violations of human rights and dignity. These human rights were enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law by the Sino-British Joint Declaration but China has torn up these rights with the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law (NSL).
China has ignored at least 11 of the 30 articles in the UDHR in relation to Hong Kong. Some key aspects of the UDHR which were enshrined in Article 27 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, namely freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly, have been destroyed by the National Security Law. We can see this with the detention of newspaper owner, Jimmy Lai, the shutting of Apple Daily and Stand News, and even banning Tiananmen Square Massacre memorial vigils.
Article 13 of the UDHR, which protects the freedom to leave and return to one’s own country of Nationality has again been transgressed by Chinese authorities who are holding Jimmy Lai, a British national, in a Hong Kong prison and also denying him the right to be seen by British officials. Article 10, which protects the right to a fair trial by an impartial tribunal, is already dead in Hong Kong, where National Security Law cases have a 100% conviction rate.
Simon Manley, the British ambassador to the UN in Geneva noted that the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020 saw the rights and freedoms in Hong Kong go “into sharp decline” and that Article 20 the freedom to peaceful assembly, is in gross violation where “individuals have been convicted for promoting and participating in peaceful assembly, including publisher Jimmy Lai.”
Amnesty International has noted that the National Security Law is “dangerously vague and broad” and that it “can apply to anyone on the planet.” The CCP’s strangulation of basic freedoms is not just a risk to Hong Kongers in Hong Kong and abroad, but to anyone who seeks to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party.
Mark Sabah, Director of The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“For many years now China has subverted the Universal Declaration to its own ends, most significantly in Hong Kong with the introduction of the National Security Law which has brought a once vibrant city to its knees. China is not playing by the rules and the Universal Declaration is pointless unless adhered to by all countries around the world. Jimmy Lai, Joshua Wong, and Chow Hang-Tung are leading examples of what happens when human rights are completely disregarded. We need to hold China to account and to its international obligations.”