UNHRC asks China to ensure universal voting rights in Hong Kong
The UNHRC ( United Nations Human Rights Committee) asked China to ensure universal suffrage in Hong Kong, specifying that universal voting rights included the right to stand for election as well as the right to vote.
Role of UNHRC in Hong Kong
The UNHRC monitors compliance with an international treaty on civil and political rights, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in Hong Kong. Therefore, it is concerned with violations of the treaty in Hong Kong.
Concerns of the UNHRC
The main concerns expressed by the UNHRC were focused on the right to stand for elections without unreasonable restrictions. The UNHRC has also asked for additional information on the specific method for selecting the Chief Executive Legislative Council of Hong Kong by universal suffrage, to ensure its compliance with the ICCPR. This recent statement of UNHRC is a follow-up on its recommendations made in March 2013 pertaining to the need for universal and equal suffrage in Hong Kong for all elections.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the UNGA in 1966. It guarantees fundamental freedoms including the right to self-determination and free and regular elections. China is also a signatory but it has never been ratified. However, though ICCPR is just a treaty for other countries, it is binding in Hong Kong due to the special nature and circumstances surrounding the province.
Protests in Hong Kong
Protestors in Hong Kong have also been demanding universal suffrage and that the impending elections in 2017 and 2020 be held according to international standards. The elections in question are for the Chief Executive position and Legislative Council seats.
The protest was conceived to be an act of civil disobedience by the organizers. Hong Kong citizens, unlike those of mainland China have the right to free speech and right to protest. The ruling of the National People’s Congress which triggered the protests said that candidates for the 2017 Chief Executive elections would be only those nominated by a Committee which consisted mostly of pro Beijing members.