GENEVA: The UN human rights experts have voiced concerns over China's collective repression of its population, especially religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim-majority Xinjiang and the Tibet autonomous regions, and called for decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in the country.
"The UN experts repeatedly communicated with the Government of the People's Republic of China their alarm regarding the repression of fundamental freedoms in China," according to a press statement released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday.
They have "raised their concerns regarding a range of issues of grave concern, from the collective repression of the population, especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet, to the detention of lawyers and prosecution and disappearances of human rights defenders across the country," the statement said.
The UN experts expressed concerns that journalists, medical workers and those exercising their right to free speech online in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic have allegedly faced retaliation from the authorities, including many being charged with 'spreading misinformation' or 'disrupting public order'.
They also denounced the repression of pro-democracy protests in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), impunity for excessive use of force by police, the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters and the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations.
They said a national security law for the Hong Kong SAR which would, if adopted, violate China's international legal obligations and impose severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region.
"The draft law would deprive the people of Hong Kong, who constitute a minority with their own distinctive history, cultural and linguistic and even legal traditions, the autonomy and fundamental rights guaranteed them under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the One Country, Two Systems' governance framework," it said.
The national security law would also undermine the ability of businesses operating in Hong Kong to discharge their responsibility to respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The independent experts urge the Chinese government to abide by its international legal obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Sino-British Joint Declaration and withdraw the draft national security law for Hong Kong.
"The UN independent experts believe it is time for renewed attention on the human rights situation in the country, particularly in light of the moves against the people of the Hong Kong SAR, minorities of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and human rights defenders across the country," the statement said.
The UN experts asked the international community to act collectively and decisively to ensure China respects human rights and abides by its international obligations.
They also urged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to act with a sense of urgency to take all appropriate measures to monitor Chinese human rights practices.