In a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, Human Rights in China urges her to speak out publicly, strongly, and unequivocally to support the people of Hong Kong in their demand for the full withdrawal of an extradition bill that has triggered, over recent weeks, the most massive protests in Hong Kong’s history. (See below for text of letter.)
“The people of Hong Kong—ordinary citizens from all rungs of society—raising their voices against a global power that has intimidated governments around the world are the manifestation of courage and an inspiration to us all,” writes Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC.
Introduced in February of this year, the extradition bill, if passed, would expose anyone living in or passing through Hong Kong to rendition to mainland China, where the judicial system lacks independence and where many criminal suspects are not accorded due process protection.
The largely decentralized protests, supported by many sectors, including business, legal, academic, and labor, have taken various forms: many large-scale marches including one on June 16 that was joined by an estimated two million people; petitions to foreign government consulates to urge representatives attending the G20 Osaka Summit (June 28-29) to raise their concerns with China; and today, crowdfunded full-page ads headlined “Stand With Hong Kong at G20” appearing in 17 newspapers in at least 12 different countries, including the New York Times (U.S. and international), Guardian (U.K.), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Chosun Ilbo (South Korea), and Apple Daily (Taiwan).
“If there is a time when the people of Hong Kong, and of the world, need to hear from you . . . this is the moment,” Hom urges the world’s highest official charged with promoting the protection of human rights worldwide.
HRIC Letter to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
June 28, 2019
Ms. Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights Council
Dear High Commissioner Bachelet,
As you are aware, in the last few weeks, in a series of massive street protests involving a very large portion of Hong Kong’s population across all sectors—from business to law to academic to labor—Hong Kong’s people have demonstrated their strong opposition to an extradition bill that, if passed, will expose anyone living in or passing through Hong Kong to rendition to mainland China, where the judicial system lacks independence and where criminal suspects are not accorded due process protection. The international community, including business, foreign bar associations, governments, and China experts, has also expressed concerns about the bill’s potential impact on the rule of law in Hong Kong.
We noted your mention of Hong Kong in your remarks at the opening of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council last week—that you “commend the sound decision” of the Hong Kong government to suspend the bill. However, we are very disappointed that you have remained silent about the risk of violations of internationally enshrined core fundamental rights posed by a bill that still hangs over the heads of the Hong Kong people like the Sword of Damocles. The “suspension of the legislative process” announced by the Hong Kong SAR Government did not respond to the substantive and legal concerns raised by citizens about the bill.
Following the announcement, as many as two million Hong Kong citizens stood up bravely to continue the call for the complete withdrawal of the bill. The people of Hong Kong—ordinary citizens from all rungs of society—raising their voices against a global power that has intimidated governments around the world are the manifestation of courage and an inspiration to us all.
In this hour of crisis engulfing the Hong Kong people, we urge you to speak out publicly, strongly, and unequivocally in support of the Hong Kong people’s just demands for a full withdrawal of the bill and an independent investigation into the use of police force against demonstrators. The failure of the High Commissioner to speak out more forcefully undermines civil society on the ground and deprives it of a fundamental tool: the leadership and voice of the UN office specifically mandated to promote and protect the full enjoyment of human rights by all people and to prevent human rights violations.
Despite China’s claims, what happens to, and in Hong Kong is not only a local or “domestic” matter. Governed under the principle of one country, two systems, pledged by the People’s Republic of China in an international treaty which allows the preservation of its existing way of life for 50 years following its return to PRC rule in 1997—Hong Kong is a testing ground for whether mainland China would be held accountable to the international commitments it has made, or whether international human rights authorities would just stand by as it violates that agreement and tramples on fundamental rights protected under international law.
If there is a time when the people of Hong Kong, and of the world, need to hear from you—the world’s highest official charged with promoting the protection of human rights and the respect for human dignity worldwide—this is the moment.
Human Rights in China