EU Statement | HK Human Rights Eroded, National Security Law Suppress Democracy and New Electoral System Lost Political Plurality

The EU representative, in his address to the UNHRC meeting on Sept. 26, specifically mentioned the human rights situation in Hong Kong, expressing their grave concern about the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) and the renewed use of the Sedition Law, and mentioned the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and the conviction of members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists for sedition relating to the Children’s Book Case. He described that all of the above constitute deterioration of freedoms.

This UNHRC meeting was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The EU representative issued a statement on Sept. 26 expressing concern about the human rights situation in many countries and regions, including China, Hong Kong, Russia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Belarus (Belarus), Eritrea, Turkey, Palestine, Myanmar, and Nicaragua. Among them, he made Hong Kong a separate paragraph.

The EU’s statement stated that they remain gravely concerned about the repressive National Security Law (NSL), the renewed use of the Sedition Law, and the sweeping changes in the electoral system that constitute a violation of democratic principles and political pluralism. The legitimate exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression including media freedom, has been substantially eroded.

Cardinal Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, was arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces” by the Hong Kong authority in May 2022 because of being a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The Fund aimed to provide humanitarian and relevant financial support to persons who are injured, arrested, attacked, or threatened with violence during Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests.

The chairman of the HKJA, Ronson Chan, was stopped by the police for inquiry on his way to a news interview in June this year and asked to hand over his Identity card. He complied but then was arrested for obstructing police officers and disorder in a public place.

Five members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists have been sentenced to 19 months imprisonment for publishing what prosecutors said were anti-government “seditious” children’s books. One defendant, Lorie Lai Man-ling, former chairperson of the Great Union said, “I am willing to pay the price for exercising my freedom of speech. Even if I lose, I still stand and be counted.” She believes that there are restrictions on freedom of speech, which should not be a political red line.

The statement mentioned Cardinal Zen, four other trustees, and the fund secretary, who was arrested in connection with the 612 cases, Ronson Chan, the chairman of the HKJA, who was recently arrested and the five members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists have been sentenced to imprisonment for publishing children’s books. They constitute deterioration of the freedoms guaranteed in the Hong Kong Basic Law. The statement also mentioned the independence of the judiciary is under immense pressure and that the lengthy pre-trial detention in NSL cases is a source of concern, as well as the closure of numerous civil society groups.

The EU urges China and the Hong Kong authorities to restore full respect for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, including freedom of association and freedom of expression, guarantee the independence of the judiciary, and preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle, in compliance with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and China’s domestic and international commitments.

As for China, the EU agreed with the release of the assessment report of human rights concerns in Xinjiang by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report underscores the serious human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang and finds that these may constitute crimes against humanity.

The EU reiterates its persistent and serious concerns about the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, mass arbitrary detentions, widespread surveillance, tracking and control measures, systemic and severe restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, as well as the use of forced labour, torture, forced abortion and sterilisation. All of the above is proved by reports.

The EU urges the CCP to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including Uighurs and persons belonging to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities across China, especially in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Danny Tang