China Sows Seeds of Crisis in Hong Kong

Sophie Richardson | 2 September 2014 | Human Rights Watch

The Chinese government has a talent for producing precisely the outcome it doesn’t want: whether it’s repressing religion, culture, and expression in Xinjiang so much that tensions now run extremely high, restricting the space for helpful civic groups such that they find it difficult to operate or imprisoning some of its most constructive critics, stifling opportunities for peaceful debate and progress.

The recent developments in Hong Kong fit the pattern. On August 31, China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) handed down its decision: no real democracy for Hong Kong for the near future, and those who most passionately “love Hong Kong and love China” – but don’t love the Chinese Communist Party – will never be allowed to lead the territory’s government.

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Beijing’s ‘knock-on-the-door’ warning to Hong Kong’s democracy movement

Patrick Brown | 29 August 2014 | CBC News

According to Nicolas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, “The rule of law in Hong Kong has eroded faster in the past few months than it had over the whole period from 1997 to 2014.” And there are probably two main reasons for this.

Consolidating his power after almost two years in office, President Xi Jinping has spoken of the need for a firmer hand with Hong Kong, partly out of concern that allowing greater democracy there might lead to demands for the same in other parts of China.

The regime has also been caught off-guard by the strength of the campaign for democracy known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which participated in a huge march on July 1, the anniversary of the handover.

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Human Rights Watch: China: Stop Interfering in Peaceful Hong Kong Protests

29 August 2014 | Human Rights Watch

The Chinese central government and Hong Kong authorities should not impede peaceful protests or other means of peaceful expression, Human Rights Watch said today. China’s top legislature is set to formally announce its decision on Hong Kong’s political reform on August 31, 2014, and the expected announcement is likely to trigger large protests.

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Human Rights Watch: No News Is Bad News in Hong Kong

4 August 2014 | Human Rights Watch

If Hong Kong is left with a press that only the Chinese government likes, everyone loses. The business community relies on the free flow of information to make function effectively, Hong Kong people are accustomed to news from a variety of perspectives, and Beijing itself will not be able to accurately ascertain local developments.  A few years ago, it seemed inconceivable that the vibrant Hong Kong media could be strong-armed into obedience. But it now seems disturbingly possible that a few years from now we might not even know an outlet like House News had ever existed. 

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Human Rights Watch: China/Hong Kong: Make Report Reflect Democracy Demands

14 July 2014 | Human Rights Watch

“The chief executive’s report should reflect the desire for greater political rights so clearly articulated by people in Hong Kong in recent weeks,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “Failure to accurately reflect the views of Hong Kong’s people will make a mockery of this exercise, and risk further galvanizing public sentiment.”

“It’s in the interests of Hong Kong and Beijing governments to expand political rights in the territory,” Richardson said. “Curtailing rights is not only anachronistic, but also likely to increase tensions and alienation among the people of Hong Kong, who have waited patiently for years for the realization of the promise that ‘Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong.’”

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Human Rights Watch: Hong Kong Gets Out the Vote

Sophie Richardson | 25 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

Over the past four days, more than 700,000 people in Hong Kong have presented the Chinese government with one of its worst nightmares: a peaceful process that challenges Beijing’s authority under international law [3]. As of June 23, according to some estimates, as many as one in five [4] registered voters have cast ballots through a non-binding, city-wide referendum to choose among three proposals for political reform in Hong Kong [5] — ignoring threats from the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the process.

The challenge Beijing faces is clear: should it grant real autonomy to Hong Kong’s 7.2 million citizens, and allow them to decide whom to elect and how? Or should it try to crush democratic aspirations among its citizens, as it has done [6] many times before?

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Human Rights Watch: Hong Kong Gets Out the Vote

Sophie Richardson | 25 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

Many Hong Kong citizens have made their views perfectly clear. From the right to participate in politics, the right to express those views, and their right to demonstrate peacefully as a means of manifesting change, international law is on their side. Who else is?

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Human Rights Watch: China: Allow Peaceful Demonstrations in Hong Kong

19 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

“The white paper is a clear signal from Beijing to Hong Kong that universal suffrage will not be considered even in the face of mounting public pressure,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “Not only is it unacceptable for Beijing to simply override the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, doing so is also likely to contribute to mounting tensions in Hong Kong, where people have waited for decades for their promised democratic rights.”

Human Rights Watch urges the Hong Kong and central governments to ensure that any decision on the 2017 chief executive elections conforms to international human rights requirements, including those of the ICCPR. Any committee established for nominating candidates for the elections should likewise reflect such requirements and be selected by universal suffrage. Human Rights Watch also urges the Hong Kong and central governments to develop a time-bound and detailed plan to put into practice universal and equal suffrage.

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Human Rights Watch: China: Keep Commitment to Hong Kong Democracy

26 November 2013 | Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch urged the Hong Kong and central governments to take immediate action, including by developing a time-bound and detailed plan, to put into practice universal and equal suffrage. They should ensure that any proposals for public consultation for the 2017 chief executive elections conform to international human rights standards, including those set out in the ICCPR. Any committee established for nominating candidates for the elections should conform to such requirements.

“Instead of spending time devising schemes to break promises on electoral reform, the Chinese government should move towards genuine universal suffrage,” said Adams. “The people of Hong Kong have continuously made it clear that they want real democracy. Beijing’s games only undermine its legitimacy in the territory.” 

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Human Rights Watch: Report on universal suffrage and the freedom of assembly in Hong Kong

27 June 2013 | Human Rights Watch

“Hong Kong does continue to enjoy the rule of law and a high level of press freedom, but the lack of universal suffrage, reports of government interference, and self-censorship of the press, increasing numbers of arrests and prosecutions against protesters, as well as surveillance of protesters, are issues that pose serious threats to Hong Kong’s citizens’ enjoyment of their civil and political rights.”

In the hearing on “Macau and Hong Kong” before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Human Rights Watch urges the Hong Kong government to ensure that the new electoral methods developed for 2016, 2017, and beyond are in compliance with international standards on political participation. Human Rights Watch also urges the Hong Kong government to revise the Public Order Ordinance to ensure that the Ordinance is in accordance with provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights Ordinance.

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