Amnesty International Hong Kong warns of severe deterioration for human rights in its annual review
The human rights review highlights how the Hong Kong government is increasingly using “national security” as an excuse to deprive people in Hong Kong of their human rights. Individuals who advocate for Hong Kong’s independence or self-determination, by non-violent means, are cast as a threat to “national security”, and their peaceful activism is branded ‘illegal’, in breach of Hong Kong’s human rights law and the government’s obligations to uphold international human rights standards.
“The Hong Kong government is being far more aggressive in restricting freedom of expression. The past year has seen a rapid deterioration that should alarm everyone who wants to see Hong Kong’s cherished freedom’s protected,” said Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“The government must stop trying to silence and punish those who peacefully advocate for different policies for the city.”
The annual review documents how the concept of “national security” as used by the Hong Kong government lacks legal clarity and predictability and is arbitrarily applied to suppress dissent and political opposition.
Several events are illustrative of this effort to silence opposition. In September 2018 , the government banned the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) because it advocates for Hong Kong’s independence from China. The government also refused to renew the work visa of journalist Victor Mallet, the vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), seemingly in an act of retaliation for hosting a talk by the convener of the HKNP. Legislator Eddie Chu was disqualified from standing for the village representative election because he was deemed to have “implicitly supported independence as an option for Hong Kong people”.
“Actions or speeches that do not intend and are unlikely to incite imminent violence should not be punished under the guise of protecting ‘national security’. Any restrictions on freedom of expression for the protection of national security should be proportionate, necessary and clearly and strictly defined in law,” said Man-kei Tam.
“The Hong Kong government is increasingly depriving individuals and groups of their human rights based on their political views, a clear violation of freedom of expression,” said Man-kei Tam.
“It is ludicrous for the government to claim the incidents were not related to freedom of expression. They most certainly are. Restricting legitimate discussion based solely on particular political views is a violation of the right to freedom of expression. We urge the Hong Kong government stop playing with words. The government must stop curtailing the human rights of the people in Hong Kong in the name of “national security”
Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that this right is subject only to restrictions that are “provided by law and are necessary: (a) for respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (order public) or of public health or morals”. The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, states in Principle 7 (a) that expression that does not constitute a threat to national security includes but is not limited to “advocating] non-violent change of government policy or the government itself” and “criticism of, or insult to, the nation, the state or its symbols, the government, its agencies, or public officials, or a foreign nation, state or its symbols, government, agencies or public officials”.
“We are on a dangerous path that places diversity and freedom of academic, artistic, and creative technology at risk. The government must change course and demonstrate that people’s human rights, especially freedom of expression, will be protected under ‘one country two systems’”.