Hong Kong’s national security law was enacted to restore residents’ “enjoyment of rights and freedoms,” the government has said. It also “expressed strong disapproval” over remarks made by the United Nations after the first minors were sentenced under the legislation for conspiracy to incite subversion over calls advocating an “armed uprising.”

national security law banner
File photo: GovHK.

UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters on Tuesday that the international rights body was “alarmed” by the sentencing. “We regret the continued application of the national security law, including against children, in spite of the clear recommendations of the Human Rights Committee,” she said.

The committee urged the Hong Kong government to scrap the security legislation in July, citing an “overly broad interpretation” of its provisions that was “incompatible” with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

But the city’s authorities said the criticisms were “unsubstantiated”.

‘Enjoyment of rights and freedoms’

In a statement issued in response to the UN on Thursday, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said the national security law emphasised that “principles of human rights protection must be observed when safeguarding national security.”

Ravina Shamdasani
Ravina Shamdasani. File photo: UN Photo by Violaine Martin, via Flickr.

“In fact, the National Security Law was enacted to restore the enjoyment of rights and freedoms that people in Hong Kong had been unable to enjoy during the period of serious violence between June 2019 and early 2020,” the spokesperson said. The legislation had “swiftly and effectively restored stability and security” to the city, they added.

Beijing bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to implement the national security law in June 2020, following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, gave police sweeping new powers, and introduced a more stringent standard for granting bail.

While the government has repeatedly said that the legislation restored stability to the city, it prompted the US to impose sanctions on several Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials, and sparked criticism internationally for being vague, broad and targeted at dissent.

As of mid-September, 215 people have been arrested on suspicion of committing acts endangering national security, according to the Security Bureau.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.