Central to the mission of United Nations Watch is supporting human rights activists who speak the truth on key issues. In September 2019, UN Watch invited Hong Kong Lawmaker Tanya Chan to address the UN Human Rights Council about the deteriorating human rights situation in China involving police violence against pro-democracy protestors and journalists. As a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, practicing barrister, and co-founder of the Civic Party, Ms. Chan has been a staunch advocate for protestors since the anti-extradition movement exploded in June.
In her speech, Ms. Chan called on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to investigate the “brutal crackdowns and preemptive violence” targeting Hong Kong protestors.
Ms. Chan’s appearance before the top human rights body was reported around the world by the Associated Press, Radio Television Hong Kong, and Bloomberg. She was highlighted by PBS Newshour and discussed in the opinion section of the New York Post.
Ms. Chan caused the UN to issue a rare rebuke. Instead of thanking the speaker, which is usual protocol, Council Vice-President and chair of the general debate Carlos Foradori accused her of speaking outside the context of the agenda item. As UN Watch pointed out, and as reported by CNS News, this was absurd because her speech was delivered for an agenda item on “the promotion and protection of all human rights.”
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer responded directly to the chair’s distorted reaction, saying that “nothing could be more pressing or fitting for the council debate than Ms. Chan’s eyewitness testimony of police brutality against Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors, journalists and regular citizens.”
China’s diplomatic mission to Geneva pushed back against Ms. Chan in the days leading to her appearance. According to a letter seen by Reuters, representatives from China wrote to the UN urging it to deny Chan accreditation for the event. In addition, her speech provoked counter reactions from Hong Kong police. They refuted her accusation about police harassing and humiliating detainees as “groundless” and “reckless.”
The Straights Times reported that the police doubt the credibility of her testimony and claim to have always exercised a high level of restraint while seeking to protect the safety of the public. Ms. Chan’s speech also garnered a response from Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The day after the speech, Lam promised to begin dialogue sessions with the community as soon as possible, according to a Reuters report.
In wake of the hypocrisy and lies pervading the 47-nation human rights body, UN Watch was pleased to welcome Ms. Chan to speak on its behalf and expose the truth on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. We commend her efforts to promote the freedom of expression and to expose the escalation of police violence, which has endangered the personal safety and freedom of expression of demonstrators, journalists, and the general public.
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Testimony of Hon. Tanya Chan, delivered on behalf of United Nations Watch
I am Tanya Chan, speaking as a Hong Kong legislator, activist and lawyer.
Hong Kong is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, as police brutality against supporters of the democratic movement escalates.
Arrested protesters face physical abuse and humiliation by the police. A female protester openly spoke of an unnecessary and degrading strip search she went through. More sexual abuse cases remain unreported. Detained protesters were denied timely access to medical and legal assistance.
Use of force is excessive and indiscriminate. The police shot a beanbag round at a first-aider and blinded one of her eyes. The riot police attacked innocent subway passengers whom they claimed were rioters in disguise. As of now the police has fired more than 2000 tear gas cans.
The police call protesters “cockroaches”. Brutal crackdowns and pre-emptive violence against them are hence regarded as acceptable pest control to curb free speech.
Today marks the one-hundredth day of the movement, but there is no sign the police will exercise restraint. This is a result of the lack of democracy in Hong Kong, as the government is not held accountable for its endorsement of police abuse.
Will the High Commissioner [Michelle Bachelet] support our appeal for this Council to convene an urgent session and establish a Commission of Inquiry, to ensure human rights for the people of Hong Kong?
Why is China sitting here as a member of this Human Rights Council?