UPR Submission China & Hong Kong
On 18 July 2023, Lawyers for Lawyers jointly submitted a report for the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, including Hong Kong. The next UPR of China will take place in January 2024.
The UPR’s key concern is China’s compliance with its international human rights obligations under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, specifically on the prosecution, disciplinary measures, harassment of lawyers, as well as restriction of freedom of expression of lawyers, including restriction of lawyer’s rights in Hong Kong.
The report emphasizes cases of continuous prosecution of human rights lawyers on grounds such as “endangering national security”, or “inciting subverting state power”. These lawyers often face alarmingly long prison sentences despite a lack of legitimate legal basis and adherence to fair trial guarantees. Furthermore, apart from arrests, authorities implement widespread disciplinary measures against lawyers and human rights defendants such as disbarment, preventing them from working as lawyers.
Attention is furthermore brought to harassment, including threats, constant surveillance and house arrest, which continue even after detained lawyers have left prison in many cases. These actions interfere with the freedom of expression of lawyers, both in terms of harassment for the lawyer’s expressed opinions on politically sensitive cases, as well as frequent forcing them to sign NDAs to further silence them.
Lastly, the report emphasizes the issue of access to legal representation of their own choosing, which is a right guaranteed by the UN Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers. There have been decisions to bar certain lawyers from representing their clients, casting a shadow on the principle of separation of powers.
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