co-signed: An Open Letter for the International Human Rights Day

An Open Letter for the International Human Rights Day

An Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by 14 Hong Kong NGOs on the International Human Rights Day to re-affirm our Stance on the Universality of Human Rights, Call on Concern of the Rule According to Draconian Laws & Follow-ups to Rights Violations in China

The Honourable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,

On 10 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted without opposition the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Upon the premise that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, the UDHR has for more than half a century been the bedrock for the universal values that underpin the protection and promotion of basic human rights.

Today, as the UDHR approaches its 70th anniversary, we, the undersign groups, reaffirm hereby our stance with the universality of human rights as enshrined in this milestone document. We call on the international attention on China’ tendency to rule according to draconian law. We also urge the various UN human rights mechanisms to closely follow instances of rights violations in this country where the biggest population in the world live.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and state party to a number of core human rights treaties, China should have the unassailable obligation to strictly and comprehensively observe the international human rights standards and principles.

However, the human rights record in China has never been satisfactory and it has gone worse since Xi Jinping took power in 2013. The Chinese government has, on the one hand, worked to restrain the civil space with coercive measures. Not only has it cracked down on civil society groups, arrested rights lawyers in large scale, detained citizen reporters, feminists and labour rights activists; the case of the Causeway Bookstore has also strongly suggested the practice of cross-border law enforcement by mainland officials. On the other hand, with the rhetoric of “rule by law” with Chinese characteristics, the Chinese government has openly defied the universal value of human rights. By legislating and revising large amount of law and regulations, the authorities have not only expanded the government’s executive power, but also legalised and institutionalised its acts of rights violation.

The 2014 Counterespionage Law, 2015 Counterterrorism Law and the National Security Law, 2016 Cybersecurity Law as well as the 2017 National Intelligence Law have all been common in their imprecision, allowing thereby board and arbitrary power to monitor and repress dissent voices and freedom of expression with no effective check and balance.

The Charity Law and the Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-Governmental Organizations within the Territory of China, effective respectively on 1 September 2016 and 1 January 2017, were both designed to target rights-based non-governmental organisations in and outside of the country intending to reduce their space and capacity for monitoring rights violations.

The Criminal Law in 2015 and the two Measures in 2016, respectively on the Administration of Law Firms and on Lawyers Practice, were revised with new provisions hostile to rights lawyers, creating the leeway for the authorities to dominate the criminal procedure. The amendments made to the Regulation on Religious Affairs adopted in June this year are clear in their intention to cut back on the freedoms of thought and belief.

We believe that in China where the three powers of government concur, “rule by law” is in effect the rule according to draconian laws that relentlessly corrode the basic rights of the citizens and the healthy development of the civil society.

It is disturbing to note that governance basing on rule by severe law has also become imminent in Hong Kong over the past few years. After breaching its promise for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the Chinese leaders have more than once called on the collaboration of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government in the city. The Hong Kong SAR government has in its turn been recklessly acted to destroy some of the basic principles of rule of law by taking law as a tool for selective prosecution and for interfering into the independence of the Legislative Council, for instances. The Co-location arrangements, as they are now presented, will go as far as to allow full implementation of the Chinese law by mainland law enforcers inside the territory of Hong Kong, regardless of the pledge for One Country Two Systems.

As members of the civil society, we firmly believe that human rights as universal value is the consensus of all modern civilized societies. It is bound to be respected and shall be protected by law. Human rights, rule of law and democracy are symbiotic for their healthy development with none of them dispensable.

On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, we reiterate our stance with the UDHR, and the provisions stipulated in the various international instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as the basic guidelines in the protection and promotion of human rights.

We call on the international community as well as the people in China and in Hong Kong to take heed on the human rights violations by the Chinese government and to speak in one voice on universality of the international standard and principles of human rights.

We call on you, Commissioner, for your continual attention and close follow-ups on the situation of rights violations in China via means of the various mechanisms including that of the Office of the High Commissioner, the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, Treaty Bodies as well as Rapporteurs and Working Groups of the Special Procedures.

Thank you for your attention.

We, the undersigned, are 14 NGOs from Hong Kong
(in alphabetical order)
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group 中國維權律師關注組
Christians for Hong Kong Society 基督徒關懷香港學會
Civil Human Rights Front 民間人權陣線
Democracy Groundwork 小麗民主教室
Demosistō 眾志
Friends of Conscience 良心之友
Globalization Monitor 全球化監察
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China
Hong Kong Christian Fellowship of City Concern香港基督徒社關團契
Hong Kong Christian Institute香港基督徒學會
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions 香港職工會聯盟
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese天主教正義和平委員會
Labour Action China中國勞動透視
Progressive Lawyers Group法政匯思
Worker Empowerment勞動力