Denise Ho told the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva that China had reneged on the commitments it made when it took control of Hong Kong in 1997, echoing the concerns of millions of Hongkongers who have joined mass protests in recent weeks.
“The Vienna Declaration guarantees democracy and human rights. Yet in Hong Kong, these are under serious attack,” Ho said in her short address to the UN body.
China’s delegation interrupted Ho’s speech twice by raising procedural motions. First, it accused Ho of violating the UN constitution by referring to Hong Kong as a country rather than a part of China and asked that she use “wordings that conform with UN rules.”
The Chinese diplomat used the second motion to accused Ho of “baselessly” attacking the “one country, two systems” arrangement under which the city is governed.
Ho ended her speech by asking the UN to convene an urgent session to “protect the people of Hong Kong” and remove China from the UN Human Rights Council.
Hongkongers have been protesting in huge numbers over the past month against a controversial bill that critics say will put political activists and business people at risk of being extradited to mainland China.
The Hong Kong government says the bill merely closes a loophole to allow suspected criminals to be extradited to territories where it doesn’t have formal extradition deals, including Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
After the protests, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam suspended the bill. While she didn’t give a timeline for the resumption of debate on the legislation, she indicated that it was unlikely to pass this year.
Opponents want to see the bill fully withdrawn and have expanded their list of demands to include Lam’s resignation and full universal suffrage for the election of the city’s leader and legislature.
“The Hong Kong people have had enough with the Hong Kong government not listening to their voices,” Ho said in an interview with Swiss TV after her speech.
“This extradition bill is just a trigger to all the frustration that have been happening these past 10 to 15 years, where we saw all the freedoms and human rights being abused by the Hong Kong government. And of course, the Chinese government behind it.”
The continued rallies, which had mostly been peaceful, turned violent on July 1 when some of the protesters smashed their way into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Building, sprayed graffiti on the walls and defaced the official Hong Kong emblem.