A representative of the leftist dictatorship of Belarus presented a statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday in defense of the Chinese Communist Party’s erosion of civil rights in Hong Kong, allegedly signed by 70 other U.N. member nations.
China’s state media apparatus effusively celebrated the letter as the support of the entire world behind its policies to crush Hong Kong’s traditional autonomy, protected under a policy known as “One Country, Two Systems.” Beijing agreed to the policy — which bans Hong Kong from seeking sovereignty, and Beijing from imposing communism in the city — when the United Kingdom handed the port city over to China in 1997.
In the past two years, the Chinese Communist Party has implemented increasingly repressive measures to eliminate capitalist democracy, prompting city-wide protests attracting millions of people. After the Beijing-controlled local government failed to pass a law in 2019 that would allow the extradition of anyone present in Hong Kong to China if charged with a violation of communist law, the Beijing National People’s Congress (NPC) passed a law last year that punished four “crimes” with a minimum of ten years in prison: “terrorism,” “secession,” “calls for foreign interference,” and “subversion of state power.”
Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been arrested under the so-called “national security” law, including most prominent organizers of protests. This week, with the NPC back in session, Beijing will seek to implement new laws that ban those not deemed “patriots” by the Communist Party from holding public office in Hong Kong.
In this context, the government of Belarus — itself engulfed in popular pro-democracy protests — presented a letter to the Human Rights Council on behalf of 70 countries, which Chinese coverage of the letter did not identify, supporting China’s repression of the people of Hong Kong. Belarus is not a member of the Human Rights Council but China — and rogue state allies like Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela — do enjoy seats in the venue. The U.N. Human Rights Council’s nominal purpose is to defend international human rights, a purpose critics say has been lost as a growing number of human rights violators earn seats on the Council.
“We support China’s implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” the letter read, referring to China’s policies contradicting the “One Country, Two Systems” policy. “Since the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region came into force, Hong Kong has got rid of turbulence and gradually restored stability.”
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of China, and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs that brook no interference by any external forces. We urge the relevant sides to respect China’s sovereignty and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs as well as China’s internal affairs,” the letter concluded.
China’s state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper noted Friday that the NPC, currently open for lawmaking as part of China’s annual “Two Sessions,” is working on a “detailed draft decision to overhaul the Hong Kong electoral system with the aim of fixing existing loopholes.” The law, it continued, would “effectively implement the political principle of only patriots governing the city,” meaning politicians loyal to Beijing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry applauded the letter by calling “crystal-clear” proof that its repression of Hong Kong citizens was politically healthy for the city.
“China is determined in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, in implementing “one country, two systems,” and in upholding prosperity and stability in Hong Kong,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during Friday’s press briefing. “We urge the relevant parties to strictly observe international law and basic norms governing international relations, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way.”
The letter is the second of its kind to the U.N. In July 2020, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Afghanistan, and other repressive states similarly pressured the U.N. Human Rights Council with a joint statement in defense of the “national security law” passed to criminalize pro-democracy protests. Chinese allies in the Human Rights Council have similarly defended Beijing’s genocide campaign against Uyghur people in western Xinjiang, where the Communist Party has built hundreds of concentration camps to eliminate the ethnic minority group.
On the Council, China has used its position to divert attention away from growing concerns about its genocide by accusing the United States — which left the council under President Donald Trump but has requested to return under President Joe Biden — of various alleged human rights abuses. At a Council meeting in November, China’s envoy decried alleged “systematic racism” in the United States, citing it as a distinctly egregious human rights abuse in the world, and used his speech time to urge Washington to “root out systematic racism, address widespread police brutality and combat discrimination against African- and Asian-Americans.”