Hong Kong: 25 years after the handover basic rights are under unprecedented attack

photo: AFP / Peter Parks

The ITUC has made a submission to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) outlining the decline of respect for civil and political liberties and trade union rights in Hong Kong, as the 25th anniversary of the territory’s handover is marked on 1 July.

The week of 4 July, the UNHRC is due to review if the authorities in Hong Kong are maintaining their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which continues to apply to Hong Kong after the handover to China in 1997.

In 2020, the UNHRC questioned the compatibility of the ICCPR and the PRC National Security Law in Hong Kong, the absence of universal suffrage in political election, as well as the suppression of the right to peaceful assembly and trade union registration.

Basic rights are under sustained attack as the Chinese Communist Party continues its political takeover of Hong Kong. The ITUC’s dossier includes:

  • Prosecutions of eight trade unionists with subversion and sedition charges for their free exercise of rights under the ICCPR and ILO Convention No,.87;
  • No public protest and rally has been allowed since 2020;
  • HKCTU and more than 58 trade unions and civil society organisations have been forced to disband;
  • De-registration procedures have been invoked against independent trade unions and journalists’ association;
  • State-owned media campaigns against trade unions alleging that international trade union solidarity is a danger to national security; and
  • Full-scale integration of the national security laws into labour regulation.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This report is damning. The scale of the attacks on human, labour and political rights in Hong Kong is staggering.

“It is clear that rights enshrined in the ICCPR are being trampled on by systematic criminalisation of trade unionists and international solidarity, oppressive laws and widespread intimidation of civil society activities.

“We call on governments who care about freedom and democracy to mark this 25th anniversary by putting pressure on the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing to take action to respect, protect and fulfil its obligations under international human rights law.

“We are in complete solidarity with the trade unionists, human rights campaigners and democracy defenders in Hong Kong who are keeping the light of freedom shining in the face of this repression.”