China warns UN of ‘meddling’ in affairs

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.


Beirut Explosion: Rescuers hear ‘heartbeat’ under rubble

Rescue and salvage efforts are ongoing a month after the deadly explosion in Beirut that claimed around 200 lives. Rescuers detected a ‘heartbeat’ under the rubble which set off speculation that a person may be b uried and still alive under the debris. The reports are unconfirmed at this point.

However, special sensor equipments were sent to Mar MiKhael area to probe the possibility of a living person trapped under the debris.

“These (signs of breathing and pulse) along with the temperature sensor means there is a possibility of life,” rescue worker Eddy Bitar told reporters at the scene. he was quoted by Reuters.

The search was initially suspended overnight but voluteers continued working.

News of the rescue prompted crowds to form at the rescue site, who grew angry as rescue efforts were paused in a city desperate for hope.

What’s latest on Beirut explosion?

Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab was questioned by judicial investigator in connection with the explosion, reported Xinhua. Diab is the highest-ranking official to have been questioned in this matter so far.

He has been criticised for not ensuring that 2750 tonnes of highly explosive Ammonium Nitrate was not safely stored and instead was kept in warehouses at Beirut port close to residential areas of the city.

On Thursday, newly appointed director of Beirut port said that around 4 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate was still stored near the entrance of the port. He urged the authorities to re-export the explosive material to avoid another disaster.