Hong Kong is seeing more pro-Beijing voices in a UN rights review

Hong Kong is seeing more pro-Beijing voices in a UN rights review

HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong supporters of a draconian national security law imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party have drawn attention to a U.N. session, raising concerns about rights advocates.

The law, which critics say Hong Kong authorities have used to crush dissent after mass protests in 2019, was the focus of two days of UN hearings on economic, social and cultural rights on China that ended Thursday in Geneva. The Committee reviews respect for those rights in nearly all UN member states every few years.

Of the nearly 30 reports on Hong Kong submitted for the session, more than half supported widely enforced national security laws.

None of the organizations – some led by pro-Beijing politicians – that provided positive reports submitted a submission to a previous review nine years ago, raising concerns from rights advocates that their participation could affect how the committee views the human rights situation. On the ground they are concerned whether incidents are being reported accurately, particularly as some local civil society groups have been silenced or forced to disband under sweeping laws.

The trend in submissions is concerning, Amnesty International researcher Kai Wong said, because information from the reports is key to independent and on-the-ground monitoring of how human rights are being protected or violated in Hong Kong.

“This is a concern for the UN system itself,” he said. “But it more broadly reflects the uncertainty that many civil society organizations face because it shows that in many cases many of their actions can be criminalized by the Hong Kong government these days.”

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the promise that the former British colony would retain its own political, social and financial institutions for 50 years.

But after Beijing imposed the law on the former British colony in 2020, the city’s once-vibrant civil society shrank drastically. The activists have fled abroad Prisoner of law. Unions and other independent organizations were shut down. The United States has imposed sanctions on officials it blames for its abuses.

The committee received an “unprecedented amount” of submissions from non-governmental organizations, indicating significant concern about the human rights situation in China, Hong Kong and Macau, said Michael Windfuhr, the committee’s China correspondent.

“We also received information from those who said the national security law was positive, only to reflect that,” Windfuhr said Wednesday as he questioned Hong Kong officials about the law’s implementation.

One of those positive responses came from Kam Man-fung, deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong-based think tank One Country Two Systems Youth Forum, which seeks debate and dialogue between young people in the semi-autonomous city and the mainland.

Kam said he was inspired in part by the idea of ​​”telling China’s story well” — a phrase used by Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote a positive image of the country.

Hong Kong has become a focus of heightened US-China tensions, prompting him to pay more attention to international affairs, Kam said.

“I just want the world to understand my country and my birthplace more widely,” said the member of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party. He said his report was completely self-inflicted.

While pro-Beijing groups fought to get their side of the story heard at the UN, Amnesty International said in its report that some local NGOs, which participated in the review, “were forced to disband, prosecuted or discouraged. Fear of reprisals and national security.” Continuing international advocacy work for fear of violating the law.

The Hong Kong government has not given its assurances that NGOs participating in a review by a different UN committee in 2022 will not face any reprisals, Wong said. Some local groups have also told Amnesty they don’t want to attend the hearings in Geneva in person because they are worried about surveillance and monitoring by Chinese authorities, he said.

On Wednesday, the Chinese delegation said there would be no retaliation against NGOs that provided information to the review.

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