National Security Law heavily criticized in the Hong Kong review
Published on 26 Jul 2022, 11:36 AM
Hong Kong was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 7, 8, and 12 of July, 2022
State party delegation of Hong Kong during the hybrid review of the Human Rights Committee
The Human Rights Committee reviewed the fourth periodic report of Hong Kong (China) on 7, 8, and 12 of July, 2022, in a hybrid format. During the dialogue, the State Party delegation mentioned that June 2019 was the ‘darkest time for Hong Kong’ with instances of terrorism and foreign interference.
The National Security Law (NSL) was the most recurrent topic in the discussion, especially its impact on the increase of arrests and detentions, on the right to fair trial, and freedom from torture. Hong Kong stated that the NSL was a key element in restoring peace and stability of the Special Administrative Region (SAR). Concerning protests, the Committee stated that Hong Kong’s police had consistently violated human rights standards in its response. The Committee also addressed issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and asked whether legislation should be introduced to protect LGBTI+ people. The delegation of Hong Kong replied that threats to traditional family values and controversial issues must be handled with caution. Freedom of expression of journalists was a particular concern of the Committee, and members of the Committee repeatedly asked the delegation whether the civil society organizations that had engaged with the Committee for the dialogue would face reprisals afterwards.
June 2019 incidents and National Security Law
Regarding the June 2019 events, the delegation of Hong Kong mentioned that the protests were a violent attempt to incite the SAR independence, which in some cases amounted to terrorism. The delegation claimed that the application of the NSL was essential in the response against such incidents, and the subside of the civil unrest was a direct effect of it. As for the use of force during the protests, the delegation said that the response of the police was adequate and exemplary, and that not a single protester was killed by the authorities. In this regard, the Committee further asked what then accounted for the ‘suicides’ that took place during the protests. The Committee also questioned the accuracy of the data given by the State Party regarding protection against torture.
A member of the Committee labeled the NSL as a ‘situation of creeping jurisdiction by the Central People’s Government, done overnight, without consultation and overpassing local legislation’. Hong Kong’s replies throughout the dialogue focused on reiterating that ICCPR rights are not absolute and subject to limitations to protect national security and public order, and that art. 4 of the NSL assures the protection of human rights. Hong Kong also mentioned that the NSL upholds the high degree of autonomy of the SAR and the 1 country 2 systems principle.
Freedom of expression and protection of civil society organizations
Regarding freedom of expression, the Committee mentioned that sanctions against journalists critical of the police response and the government in some cases included imprisonment and caused 1,115 journalists to lose their jobs for covering the protests. The Hong Kong delegation replied that the media can report freely in the SAR and act as a watchdog of public affairs.
As for the freedom of peaceful assembly, the Committee was concerned that nearly 100 organizations of civil society had to dissolve or leave Hong Kong since the enforcement of the NSL, which extraterritorially still receive governmental letters demanding to take down their websites. The delegation claimed that many of them left due to the widespread violence in the city rather than because of the implementation of the NSL. Lastly, the Committee asked the delegation to provide assurances that the organizations that participated in the dialogue will not be in danger of prosecution or victimization under the NSL afterwards.
Watch again the dialogue with the Committee here.
Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee
Concluding Observations on Hong Kong’s fourth periodic report were released on 27 July 2022. The State party is requested to provide, by 28 July 2025, information on the implementation of the following recommendations:
The National Security Law
The Committee welcomes the assurance of the Delegation that the development of future legislation under article 23 of the Basic Law would involve public consultations. Hong Kong, China should:
- a) Take concrete steps to repeal the current National Security Law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying the Law;
- b) Ensure that the legislative process for enacting a new national security law is inclusive and transparent, facilitating the free, open and meaningful participation of civil society and the public, and that it addresses the concerns relating to the current National Security Law expressed by international human rights mechanisms, including this Committee, with a view to ensuring that the new legislation fully conforms with the Covenant.
Freedom of association
Hong Kong, China should:
- a) Refrain from taking any action that is likely to curb the exercise of the freedom of association and ensure a safe environment for the activities of civil society organizations, including trade unions and student unions;
- b) Remove all the restrictive measures imposed on trade unions and discontinue all cases against trade unionists charged in connection with their union activities;
- c) Review the Societies Ordinance and other relevant legislation with a view to removing the procedural and substantive obstacles to register and run a society and bringing them in line with article 22 of the Covenant;
- d) Ensure that members and representatives of civil society organizations will not be charged under the National Security Law or victimized in any other form as a result of their engagement with the Committee for the current review as well as with other international human rights mechanisms, including other treaty bodies, the Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Report as well as with international NGOs.
Here you can find all the recommendations given by the Committee in the Concluding Observations.
The follow-up report of Hong Kong on the implementation of the recommendations is due in 2025 and the next periodic report is due in 2028.