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Human rights

Demosisto report detailing human rights concerns in Hong Kong removed from UN review hearing, Joshua Wong claims

  • Party secretary general says he has asked for an explanation as UN Human Rights Council kicked off its third review hearing on China’s human rights
  • Wong believes the report was removed due to political censorship by the OHCHR under pressure from the Beijing government
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 7:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 7:04am

A report detailing alleged suppression of politics and human rights problems in Hong Kong has been removed from a United Nations’ summary for the current review hearing in Geneva, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung said on Tuesday.

Wong, the secretary general of Hong Kong political group Demosisto, revealed the issue on Tuesday as the UN Human Rights Council kicked off its third five-yearly review hearing on China’s human rights record.

The report in question was submitted by Demosisto in March to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and was included in the first Stakeholder Summary in September, among 85 individual submissions and 42 joint submissions.

However, the report was found to have been removed in October, when the summary was republished after being taken offline for a few weeks due to what the OHCHR called “technical reasons”.

Also erased were one individual report from a Tibetan group, three joint submissions involving groups concerning southern Mongolia, and references to two Uygur groups.

While the other six groups had their submissions or citations reinstated in a Corrigendum document released by the OHCHR last Friday, the Demosisto report did not make its way back onto the list.

Wong said the party wrote to Gianni Magazzeni, head of the universal periodical review in the OHCHR, asking for an explanation, but had not received any reply.

Activists urge deep scrutiny of China at UN human rights gathering

Other affected organisations who reached out individually to the OHCHR were told in a response from the office that the Human Rights Commissioner and the universal periodical review working group “must respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the state concerned”.

Further requests to explain in greater details from the NGOs were unanswered according to a joint statement released by the groups on Monday.

The Post has contacted the OHCHR for comment.

In Hong Kong, Wong said on Tuesday that the Demosisto report did not touch on any controversy related to sovereignty issues.

“We raised our concerns on the Hong Kong government’s disqualification of lawmakers, and its imprisonment of political activists,” Wong said. “We also made our suggestions on how Hong Kong should improve legal protection for human rights.”

In its seven-page report, the party also mentioned that the city was yet to realise universal suffrage in elections for the chief executive and Legislative Council members, and that the legislation for Article 23 of the Basic Law – the national security article in the city’s mini-constitution – would put free speech and political participation in peril.

Wong believed that the Demosisto report was removed due to political censorship by the OHCHR under pressure from the government in Beijing.

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“It proved how the universal periodical review lacks transparency and also that is has come under pressure from the Beijing government,” Wong said.

“In our previous visits to Britain, US and Geneva, we were aware that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had pressured the human rights commissioners, requesting them not to meet pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong,” he added.

Wong said he would continue to seek an explanation from the UN in joint efforts with other human rights concern groups but said he would not rely on the Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to speak out and follow up on the issue for them.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Cheung said concerns raised by a number of foreign countries, including the United States which was worried about Beijing’s “continued encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy” and freedoms, were actually derived from “a lack of understanding” of the city’s situation.

“Recent concerns over some aspects of our human rights situation are unwarranted, unfounded and unsubstantiated,” Cheung told the review hearing.

Before the hearing, delegates from the Netherlands, the United States and Germany submitted written questions on human rights conditions in Hong Kong, including press freedom.

This came after the Hong Kong government last month refused to renew the working visa of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, who invited a pro-independence activist to a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

Reason for Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet’s Hong Kong visa denial to stay secret after Legco motion calling for explanation fails

Switzerland questioned if there would be an independent probe into the disappearance of five booksellers in 2015. One of the sellers who was allegedly detained on the mainland, Gui Minhai, is a Swedish citizen.

Cheung said he could not comment on the ban of certain societies and organisations as the case was under appeal.

“Hong Kong people do enjoy freedom of association, but such freedom is not absolute,” he said, adding that the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the local Bill of Rights provided restrictions to the rights when national security was at stake.

The chief secretary and the Office of the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong have been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei