In bid to defend China stand, Hong Kong’s top executive to speak at UN rights forum

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Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam will address the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, the UN program showed, amid growing concerns about draft national security legislation.

The video message, at the start of a three-week session to examine human rights issues worldwide, appears to mark a bid by China to shape the debate at the 47-member state forum.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on June 19 that any new national security laws imposed on Hong Kong “must fully comply with China’s human rights obligations” and international treaties protecting civil and political freedom.

China hit back that day, accusing her of “improper” remarks that “grossly interfere in China’s sovereignty and internal affairs.”

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Beijing unveiled details of its new national security law for Hong Kong on June 20, paving the way for the most profound change to the city’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The much-anticipated legislation, which has provoked deep concerns in Washington and Europe, includes a national security office for Hong Kong to collect intelligence and handle crimes against national security, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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It said Hong Kong leader Lam could also appoint specific judges to hear national security cases, a move likely to unnerve some investors, diplomats and business leaders in the global financial hub.

Riot police pour water on the face of anti-government protester at Sheung Shui, a border town in Hong Kong. (File photo: Reuters)
Riot police pour water on the face of anti-government protester at Sheung Shui, a border town in Hong Kong. (File photo: Reuters)

National security activities would protect human rights and freedom of speech and assembly, it added, without providing details.

China says the draft law is aimed at tackling separatist activity, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, but critics fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms that are seen as key to Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center.

The details of the law were unveiled following a three-day meeting of the top decision-making body of China’s parliament.

The exact time frame for enacting the law was unclear, although political analysts expect it will take effect ahead of key Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong on September 6.

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