Hong Kong civic coalition warns UN on eroding freedoms

Civic groups say attacks on democratic freedoms are on the rise in Hong Kong
AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) – More than 40 civil groups in Hong Kong appealed to the United Nations Tuesday demanding action to protect rapidly disappearing freedoms as Beijing increasingly tightens its grip on the freewheeling city.

The coalition cited increasing self-censorship, declining press freedom and the disqualification of election candidates based on their political beliefs as key examples of Hong Kong’s deteriorating conditions.

“The situation of human rights has been eroding day by day,” the coalition’s spokesperson Simon Henderson said Tuesday, adding some cases were “incredibly overt”.

The report, submitted to the UN for an upcoming review of China’s rights record, includes 100 suggestions for the Hong Kong government, such as enacting laws to protect every person’s right to stand in elections regardless of their political stance.

The submission bills itself “as a roadmap of specific, measurable and achievable recommendations for Hong Kong to abide by its human rights commitments and restore its international standing,” Henderson said in a statement.

China is scheduled for the next so-called Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record in November, which requires member states of the UN Human Rights Council to give recommendations to the country.

A string of incidents in recent years have rattled nerves, including the disappearance of booksellers publishing salacious tomes about China’s communist leadership, the disqualification of rebel lawmakers and the jailing of democracy activists.

Under a deal signed with Britain before its 1997 handover, Hong Kong is guaranteed a range of freedoms not seen on the mainland. But critics say Beijing is reneging on that commitment.

Amnesty International previously slammed the authorities’ pursuit of jail terms as a “vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

A British parliamentary report warned last month of “increasing pressure” on Hong Kong from an assertive Beijing.

Plans to bring part of a new Hong Kong railway station under mainland law have also been called unconstitutional by critics, who say authorities are bypassing the proper legal procedures to push through Beijing-backed initiatives.

The city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Civil Human Rights Front, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the International Domestic Workers Federation were among the 45 groups to endorse the submission.

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