Note on the trip to Geneva

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Mung Siu Tat meet UN human rights expert during the UN Human Rights Committee reviewing Hong Kong human rights situation.

Mung Siu-tat, Executive Director, HKLRM

It’s been ten years since the last time I went to Geneva. I was attending the International Food and Drinks Federation (IUF) assembly on behalf of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions along with three other executive members. I can still vividly remember us cycling around Lake Geneva – such a delightful way to end a day of busy meetings under that gentle October sun.

I attended the UN Human Rights Committee review hearing to review Hong Kong’s implementation of the ICCPR in July. I again had a stroll around the lake. This time, I went there alone – after the 2021 turmoil in Hong Kong, the organisation I served no longer exists.

The participation of Hong Kong activists in the UN lobbying scene has changed a lot, I was told. There were a lot more Hong Kong activists attending the hearing. There were heated dialogues between the NGOs and the government representatives. There were also relaxed chitchats and friendly photo moments after these meetings. I was told that the Hong Kong Civil Human Rights Front was once invited by the Hong Kong government to participate in the local NGOs consultation meeting before the government headed to the UN review. Those days are long gone.

Absence of local NGOs in the hearing

Now, under the threat of the Hong Kong National Security Law, all local NGOs attending the UN review have disappeared. The remaining participants from Hong Kong either belong to exile or diaspora groups.

“Their silence says it all”, a Hong Kong activist lamented in the hearing. And the UN experts were very concerned about this sound of silence. During the hearing, the UN experts grilled the Hong Kong officials three times about whether they can guarantee Hong Kong will not face retaliation after joining the hearing. The Hong Kong official said it depended on “what they said and did”. This ambiguous answer paints a clear picture of the suppression Hong Kong activists are facing now.

UN experts highlight Hong Kong trade unions framed as “colluding with foreign forces”

We tried to make the most of our trip. We arranged informal meetings before and after the official one-hour hearing. We met with representatives from different departments and explained the human rights situation in Hong Kong. One member reached out and told me that framing trade unions as an act of “colluding with foreign forces” violates the essence of the trade union movement – international solidarity. Other members also told us that the reports and briefings we presented were very useful. This one simple comment warmed our hearts. After all, we all understand we cannot do much outside Hong Kong. That’s why we have to seize every opportunity to speak out for Hong Kong.

About ten days after we left Switzerland, the UN Human Rights Committee released the official review report. The strong-worded report called for the repeal of the Hong Kong National Security Law. It is also encouraging to read our recommendation adopted in the UN report. Soon after the report was released, The European Union and the UK government followed suit and issued statements calling for the Hong Kong authorities to repeal the NSL. This report set a benchmark for the international community on Hong Kong issues. Our bottom line is clear, we will not back down.

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