UN Human Rights experts on Tuesday, 12 October, expressed “deep concern” about the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and woman human rights defender Chow Hang-Tung on charges of “incitement to subversion” and being a foreign agent. According to a press release, Chow was arrested in September and charged under the National Security Law, which gives Chinese authorities greater power and control over all aspects of life in Hong Kong. She was a member of the Hong Kong Alliance, an advocacy group that organised an annual candlelight vigil marking the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square.
On Tuesday, the UN human rights experts said, “Terrorism and sedition charges are being improperly used to stifle the exercise of fundamental rights, which are protected under international law, including freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs.”
UN experts deeply concerned by arrest of #HongKong pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-Tung on charges of “incitement to subversion” & being a foreign agent. They urge authorities to refrain from using the National Security Law and reconsider its application: https://t.co/WfKbv8DqeF pic.twitter.com/pbY8JivfaY— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) October 12, 2021
According to the press note, the experts detailed their concerns to the Chinese government about the National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, highlighting the law's fundamental “incompatibility” with international law and with China’s human rights obligations. They even raised their concerns over the qualification of “foreign agent” under the law, in which reference is made to funding received from foreign governments. The human rights experts called on Beijing to ensure that associations can seek, receive and use funding from foreign or international sources, without undue impediments.
"Such regulatory measures, by imposing undue restrictions on funding and punishing recipients of foreign funding, infringe on the right to freedom of association as well as other human rights," the experts said.
The UN rights experts further reminded the Chinese government that terrorism and subversion of national security are profoundly serious offences that are strictly defined under international law. They said that the labels should not be applied to offences that do not meet the thresholds provided for in existing international standards. "Doing so undermines the integrity of these legal standards weakening binding international law norms across both human rights and international peace and security,” they warned.
"The cheapening of the seriousness of terrorist acts and sedition offences, when Governments improperly use them to justify quelling domestic dissent, limiting protests and curbing criticism by civil society and human rights defenders, is deeply troubling," the experts added.
“The experts urged the Government to urgently repeal and independently review the National Security Law to ensure it is both human rights and international law compliant,” the press release read.