December 10th 1948, the United Nations agreed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 30 Articles which enshrine the unalienable rights of humans.  As a declaration this is not legally binding, rather it is a signal of belief in common values.  48 countries voted in favour of this, of which China was one.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

This came after the end of the second World War, at time at which presumably everyone was feeling pretty friendly towards each other and fervently wishing that we could all live in peace.  Today this is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with several other documents such as the 1966 “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights“.  (China ratified this too by the way…)

Interestingly enough, this covenant says pretty much the same as the original Universal Declaration, with one or two exceptions, the most notable being Article 4 – which basically accords any state the right to ignore many of the so-called unalienable human rights during a ‘public emergency’:

Article 4

1 . In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.

2. No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision.

Clearly then by this time, the brotherly love of the immediate post-war era had worn off, and politicians were beginning to realise just how short-sighted they were allowing citizens to just say and think what they like!  What is also of note, is that the line for the ability to derogate from the covenant is drawn after Article 18 – which deals with religious freedoms.  Article 19 of this Covenant deals with freedom of expression and Article 20 deals with the communication of propaganda for war and racial hatred.  If one were cynical, one might very well think that politicians had remembered the value of propaganda in times of war and therefore deliberately allowed themselves a way out.  I mean, propaganda’s fine isn’t it – if you’re the one doing it…

Not that the parties need a way out… I mean, signing them doesn’t actually MEAN anything…

This month China imposed a new security law on the citizens of Hong Kong.  The law apparently allows for the searching of houses or electronic devices without a warrant, it can be used to prevent citizens from travelling overseas and outlaws many forms of political action – sedition, subversion and collusion with foreign powers – hence any person requesting that sanctions be raised against China for any reason can be accused of colluding with a foreign power.   Under the law, calling for independence either verbally or through written slogans is now illegal – irrespective of the presence of violence: the law has already been used to declare the political slogan “Liberate Hong Kong” as illegal.  Not content with preventing free speech however, the law is sufficiently broad to permit that protesters holding blank placards were arrested under the same regulations: it would appear then that asking for the independence from China is illegal, and so now is holding a blank piece of paper.  Remember that bit about having the right to expression and to impart ideas through any media?  Or the bit about freedom of assembly?

Not only are these regulations draconian and in complete contravention of the various declarations and treaties that China has signed – but they apparently apply to everyone all over the world: since Article 38 of the law states:

Article 38
This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region
…so basically anyone outside of Hong Kong then!
Some of my earlier posts pronounce that citizens should be allowed to declare independence from their governments – this applies to Hong Kong citizens too…  am I therefore eligible for arrest?  Have any of you reading this ever mentioned that Hong Kong should be independent when in the pub?
I honestly don’t know what is more worrying, the fact that a country can sign-up to declarations and resolutions which enshrine rights they have no intention of protecting, or the fact that countries can operate in this way without reprisal.  What is the point of having a standard that is not kept?  What message do we send to one another when we allow countries and organisations to disregard the commitments they have made?  Indeed – what example does it set to individuals when a country can be allowed to run rough-shod over its own principles and agreements?  It doesn’t really matter whether or not I believe the new security law to be fair or just – it contravenes the principles of Human Rights to which China agreed.  If China therefore are allowed to continue as signatories to a standard that they do not uphold – what use is the the standard?
Sadly, no-one is about to remove China from the United Nations, any more than they did Turkey (also a signatory of these resolutions) when President Erdogan started imprisoning journalists.  By not removing a party that breaches a resolution – all other parties are validating that breach …and the declarations become meaningless drivel.
There is no declaration of human rights – it is a fucking joke.

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