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Hong Kong and China Human Rights Records Under Fire in Critical UN Review

Updated: Jun 4

22 January 2024 - Tomorrow, 23 January 2024, the Chinese government will undergo a major human rights review at the United Nations (UN), known as the ‘Universal Periodic Review’ (UPR).


The UPR is a peer-review process under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, where UN Member States assess each other’s human rights records, their fulfilment of human rights obligations and commitments, and provide recommendations to the State under review. Each State is reviewed approximately every five years. China’s last review took place in November 2018.


The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation commends the efforts of the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States for addressing pressing human rights concerns related to Hong Kong in the Advance Questions submitted for China's Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

The questions raised by these countries highlight the critical need for accountability and transparency in addressing the erosion of human rights in Hong Kong, particularly in the context of the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL). 


The Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, all emphasised the need to repeal the NSL. The United States rejected China's claim that the NSL has jurisdiction on US soil and also seeks justification for the Hong Kong Police's decision to place bounties on the heads of Hong Kongers who have settled abroad, including in the US.


The US also called on Hong Kong to stop repressing freedom of speech and expression and to end the politically motivated cases against Chow Hang Tung, Jimmy Lai and 47 others.


The CFHK Foundation echoes concerns raised by the United States regarding transnational repression efforts by China and Hong Kong authorities. The CFHK Foundation urges clarification on the justification for these actions, which infringe upon the rights of individuals abroad and within China.


In 2023, CFHK Foundation, alongside other Hong Kong advocacy groups including Scottish Hong Kongers and Hong Kongers in Britain "recommended that the NSL be repealed; restore the right of defendants using legal aid to choose their lawyer; ensure the practice of trial by jury in all national security cases."


The CFHK Foundation recommended that Hong Kong and China allow individuals to freely practise the religion of their choice without repercussions, and stop authorising search warrants for religious buildings unless there was credible evidence for criminal activity".


The CFHK Foundation also recommended that the Hong Kong authorities release all imprisoned journalists; ensure a free media environment from harassment, and prosecute in an open, fair trial; and cease government censorship of content from independent media". 


As the UPR session approaches, the CFHK Foundation hopes that member states will leverage this critical opportunity to hold China accountable for its human rights record and demand meaningful change, and encourages all nations to contribute to the discussion on the violations occurring in Hong Kong. They should emphasise the urgency of safeguarding basic rights and freedoms, and urge China to end its policy of transnational repression which poses a direct threat to state sovereignty, fundamental freedoms, human rights, and democracy.


Mark Sabah, Director of The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said: "The last UPR on China was in 2018, which feels like a lifetime ago given how much has changed since then. Nowhere is that change more visible than in Hong Kong, where protests in 2019 and 2020 saw the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) step up its takeover of the city and change Hong Kong from a free and open society to one with thousands of political prisoners, thousands of exiles seeking safety abroad, an end to free media and the introduction of the NSL.


"This crackdown on civil liberties and the end of the rule of law by the CCP should see all countries participating in Geneva this week stand up for Hong Kongers and especially those held in prison under the NSL, including British citizen Jimmy Lai.”


Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, who leads Jimmy Lai’s international legal team, said: “The international community must hold China to account through the UPR process. Since China’s human rights record was last examined, we have seen a breakdown of the rule of law in Hong Kong, systemic targeting of civil society and the free media, and the weaponization of the draconian NSL against those who dare to speak out. We now urge all states in Geneva this week to call for the immediate repeal of the NSL and the unconditional release of Jimmy Lai.”

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