The United Nations’ former human rights chief and eight former UN special envoys have urged the body’s secretary-general to appoint a special envoy on Hong Kong, saying they are deeply concerned about a potential “humanitarian tragedy” as Beijing prepares to impose a draconian national security law on the city.
Zeid Raad Al-Hussein, who was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights during 2014-2018, and the eight former special rapporteurs called for the unusual procedure because of the “severity of the deterioration, the impending grave threats under the new security law, (and) the symbolism that a human rights crisis in what had been one of Asia’s freest cities entails.”
A law that could be enacted as soon as next week will criminalise secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security.
The measures are being widely seen as the most significant erosion to date of Hong Kong’s British-style rule of law and high degree of autonomy Beijing promised Hong Kong would have under the “one country, two systems” principle.
“We believe there are now very real fears of a human rights and humanitarian tragedy in Hong Kong,” the former UN officials’ statement said. “It is imperative that the international community, and particularly the United Nations and its member states, act urgently to establish a mechanism for observing, monitoring and reporting on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Hong Kong.”
Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the move by the former UN officials sends a powerful message and signals that the crisis in Hong Kong has grown from a mostly local dispute to an international one.
“From the Chinese government’s point of view that is a disaster,” he said. “It’s the last thing they would want. And yet it’s going to get much worse from their point of view, because if this is all happening before they try to apply this new law, imagine what the reaction is going to be if they start to extradite people.”
However, he acknowledged that further action within the UN would be difficult because of the Chinese veto in the Security Council.
Lawmakers and senior politicians in the UK, US, European Union and elsewhere have been considering options to join forces and push for collective action should Beijing enact the law. (AP)