Hong Kong's controversial national security law should be repealed, experts on the UN Human Rights Committee said on Wednesday, amid concerns the legislation is being used to crack down on free speech and dissent in the former British colony.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was vital to restore stability after the city was rocked for months by sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019.
The committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by state parties, released its findings on Hong Kong following a periodic review.
The recommendations are the first by the independent UN expert body since 2020.
"Since its enactment in 2020, the NSL (national security law) has reportedly led to the arrests of over 200 people, including 12 children," the committee said in statement. "The committee urged Hong Kong to take action to repeal the national security law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it."
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy, including freedom of speech, under a "one country, two systems" formula. Critics of the law say that autonomy is being eroded fast.
The committee also said it regretted that the Hong Kong government had failed to provide explicit assurances that civil society members who participated in the committee's periodic view would not be targeted.
The national security law was imposed on Hong Kong directly by China in June 2020 without any local legislative or consultative process, outlawing crimes such as subversion with possible life imprisonment.
The city's tougher security regimen mirrors mainland China, where Chinese leader Xi Jinping has implemented a fierce crackdown on dissent over the past decade, jailing critics and rights defenders nationwide.
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