HONG KONG - The United Nations Human Rights Committee called on China today to ensure universal suffrage in Hong Kong. The panel met in Geneva and issued a statement emphasizing that officials need to do more to make certain that people both have the right to vote and also the right to run for office.
Focusing on the Aug. 31st decision by China’s Communist Party-run legislature, the committee finds that the guidelines for the 2017 election would practically block anyone not approved by Beijing from even appearing on the ballot. Hong Kong residents have been reacting to the legislature's decision through large-scale popular protests. Despite tensions with both the police and with opponents of the pro-democracy movement, the heart of the city is still occupied by peaceful protesters.
“I hope that Beijing will be persuaded to revisit the issue... We always have to live in hope.” -Emily Lau, head of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong and Macau, both former colonies, became parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prior to their returning to Chinese sovereignty in the late 1990s. That treaty, enforced by the United Nations, is a commitment to respect civil rights including the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to free elections. While the Chinese government in Beijing never ratified the treaty itself, it did agree that the treaty would continue to apply in Hong Kong and Macau after it resumed control of the territories.
The Human Rights Committee is tasked with reviewing how states are complying with the treaty. The United Nations has now officially said Hong Kong’s performance is “not satisfactory.” The Hong Kong government has two months to reply.