UN experts raise concerns over Hong Kong security law

HONG KONG: Seven human rights experts affiliated with the U.N. raised concerns over Hong Kong’s new national security law in a letter addressed to Chinese authorities, saying the legislation limits certain fundamental freedoms.

The letter, released Friday, said the law raises a “serious risk” that rights such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly may be infringed upon. It also highlighted the undermining of the independence of judges and lawyers in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

“We underscore that general assertions of conduct that threatens ‘national security’ without proper definitions and limitations may severely curtail civic space, the right to participate in public affairs, the rights of minorities and the work of human rights defenders and other civil society actors and their right to associate,” the human rights experts said in the letter, dated Sept. 1.

The experts are independent human rights monitors who work with the U.N. human rights office, including Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

Beijing imposed the national security law on Hong Kong effective June 30 following anti-government protests in the territory last year against a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have allowed some suspects to face trial in mainland China.

The security law makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has insisted that it will help bring stability back to Hong Kong after months of unrest.

Critics say the law effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy after it was passed from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Chinese authorities are “obviously not happy with this review in the sense that they believe they are entirely entitled within their sovereign power to apply this law in Hong Kong without consequence,” Ni Aolain said in a phone interview.

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