UN committee’s observation rebutted

March 7, 2023

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today strongly objected to the concluding observations issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights on the fourth report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR).


In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said its delegation, as part of the Chinese delegation, held dialogues with the committee in an open, respectful, co-operative and responsible manner in the meetings held on February 15 and 16 in Geneva, addressing the committee's concerns and made detailed explanations and clarifications on the misunderstandings over the human rights situation and social development in Hong Kong.


It strongly deplored and resolutely rejected the committee’s concluding observations, which insisted on making inaccurate, biased and misleading statements on various aspects of the situation in Hong Kong.


The statement said the committee’s recommendations to review the National Security Law on various aspects are not only totally unfounded but also utterly perplexing, noting that the committee has turned a blind eye to the fact that the fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents have already been guaranteed at the constitutional level by the Basic Law.


Article 4 of the security law has clearly stipulated that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, while the rights and freedoms which the residents of Hong Kong enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and the ICESCR as applied to Hong Kong, shall be protected in accordance with the law.


The statement noted that after the implementation of the security law, Hong Kong residents still enjoy various rights and freedoms, including that to form trade unions, academic and artistic freedom, as well as rights in the cultural and scientific fields mentioned in the concluding observations.


“The National Security Law does not affect the legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression by Hong Kong residents, including criticising government policies or policies and decisions made by officials, as well as publishing satiric content through different types of media as mentioned in the concluding observations."


The statement said the committee has made groundless accusations against the law enforcement actions taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government during the violent unrest of 2019, noting that all law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies were based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law in respect of the acts of the people or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation.


“The committee takes no notice of the fact as clearly pointed out by the delegation during the meeting that the implementation of the National Security Law has reversed the previous chaotic situation and serious violence, and restored stability and increased public confidence in Hong Kong, thereby allowing the city to resume normalcy and return to the path of development."


The statement also said that the National Security Department Reporting Hotline has facilitated members of the public to provide or report national security-related information and the committee's recommendation to abolish it is unjustified.


Rebutting the committee's erroneous statement on the retrogression of trade union rights, the statement said that Hong Kong residents enjoy the right and freedom to form and join trade unions and such right is clearly protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law and under local legislation, including the Trade Unions Ordinance.


Trade union rights in Hong Kong are strong and intact as ever, evidenced by the marked increase in the number of registered trade unions from 2019 to 2022. It is crystal clear the free exercise of the right and freedom of association in the Hong Kong has not been jeopardised in any way, the statement said.


As for the committee's presumptuous claims that members of trade unions had been arrested arbitrarily, a clear difference must be drawn between legitimate trade union activities protected under our law and unlawful acts that have nothing to do with the exercise of trade union rights.


It is the duty of Hong Kong law enforcement authorities to take legitimate actions against unlawful behaviours, which should not be wrongfully alleged as an affront to trade union rights, the statement added.


In response to the committee's recommendations of establishing an independent human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, the statement said that human rights are guaranteed constitutionally by both the Constitution and the Basic Law, and is underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judicial power.


The framework provides solid protection of human rights in Hong Kong, buttressed by the existing statutory organisations of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and the Ombudsman, as well as legal aid services, the statement added.


The Hong Kong SAR Government will ensure the existing mechanism continues to effectively protect fundamental rights and freedoms in the city, and does not see any need for the establishment of an additional human rights institution.


The UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights has requested the Hong Kong SAR to submit the fifth report under the ICESCR by March 2028.


The Hong Kong Government will report to the committee in respect of the recommendations in its concluding observations, and in the interim it will provide necessary information in accordance with its request by March 2025.

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