China on Friday told UN experts to stop “meddling” in its affairs after the agency’s special advisors published a letter raising fears for Hong Kong’s freedoms after the enactment of a draconian new security law.
“Some people disregard facts and… crudely interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, urging the UN advisors to stop “meddling” in its business.
UN human rights experts had told China that Hong Kong’s new security law “infringes on certain fundamental rights” and voiced concerns that it could be used to prosecute political activists in the former British colony.
Beijing has faced a barrage of criticism over the law, which was imposed in late June after pro-democracy protests rocked the semi-autonomous city last year.
The law, which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, carries a maximum life sentence and has intimidated many protesters into silence.
In a rare joint letter made public on Friday, the UN advisers warned parts of the legislation “appear to criminalise freedom of expression or any form of criticism” of China.
“The National Security Law… poses a serious risk that those fundamental freedoms and due process protections may be infringed upon,” the rapporteurs said.
The letter warned the legislation may “impinge impermissibly on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and of peaceful assembly.”
The rapporteurs had urged China’s “reconsideration” of the legislation and for a fully independent reviewer to be appointed to ensure it complies with China’s international human rights obligations.
They also expressed concern over one of the most controversial points of the law, which allows cases can be transferred from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong to mainland China, and warned it could undermine the right to a fair trial.
48 hours after it was sent to the Chinese government, they also said provisions of the new law appear to undermine the independence of Hong Kong’s judges and lawyers, and the right to freedom of expression.
The “open letter” reflected a detailed legal analysis of the national security law imposed in Hong Kong on June 30, which had already drawn UN criticism before its adoption.
The 14-page letter, posted on the website of the UN human rights office, was sent by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, and six other UN experts.
The broadly worded law criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions, and greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
Lawyers acting for some of the more than 20 people arrested under the law so far say police are trawling through historic actions of pro-democracy activists to beef-up their cases.