Seven UN human rights experts signed a letter to the Chinese government expressing concerns about whether China is complying with its international obligations for human rights standards. The letter, made public Friday, specifically questioned The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or the “National Security Law.”
As noted in the letter, sent September 1, the UN has expressed concerns regarding this law before and has exchanged several communications with Chinese officials about it. The UN members who wrote this letter also cited numerous obligations imposed by the UN requiring greater care in the passage of laws, such as by encouraging specific laws so as to “prevent ill-defined and/or overly broad laws which are open to arbitrary application and abuse and may lead to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
The National Security Law at issue was passed on July 1, and it went into force that same day. It specifies four categories of offenses that are said to endanger national security: “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements.”
Terrorism is defined broadly as including damage to physical property “such as sabotage of transport facilities or public services.” A UN Special Rapporteur released a thematic report in 2019 stating that “[d]efinitions of terrorism that include damage to property, including public property … seriously affect the right to freedom of assembly … [and] can be used against individuals engaging in social movements where damage to property is unwittingly incurred.”
In light of these and other concerns expressed in the letter, the UN requested a response to their points, an explanation of how the law does not infringe on the rights that China is obligated to provide under international law, how the country will be enforcing the law to not infringe on such rights, and the positive measures and oversight of the exercising of this law.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying commented on the UN letter during a press conference on Friday, stating “We urge [the UN] to earnestly respect the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, discard ignorance, prejudice and double standards, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.” Chunying also stated that the law is widely accepted in Hong Kong, despite the many ongoing protests against the law throughout the region.