CIVICUS, the renowned global alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society, has issued a resolute demand for the immediate cessation of the recurrent use of solitary confinement against Chow Hang-Tung, a prominent lawyer and pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong.
In a statement released to international press, CIVICUS condemned the Hong Kong authorities’ relentless application of such punitive measures, urging for Chow’s unconditional release.
Chow, a human rights lawyer and a key figure in the city’s pro-democracy movement, has undergone solitary confinement six times within the past four months, a tactic CIVICUS decries as a blatant violation of her rights and a suppression of free speech.
Rajavelu Karunanithi, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for Asia, emphasizes, “Under international laws, solitary confinement should only be used exceptionally, for the shortest time necessary, and with proper safeguards. Its repeated use against Chow Hang-tung is unequivocally unjust.”
These punitive measures highlight the intensifying crackdown on human rights defenders in Hong Kong, a situation that has alarmingly deteriorated since the imposition of the draconian National Security Law (NSL).
Chow’s latest round of solitary confinement commenced on 11 October 2023, marking yet another episode in a series of repressive actions she has endured, including previous solitary confinements ranging from seven to fourteen days under harsh conditions.
The plight of Chow Hang-Tung is intricately tied to her pivotal role in the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, notably known for organizing annual vigils commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
Her legal battles include a successful appeal against a 15-month sentence for her literary expressions, advocating participation in the 2021 Tiananmen vigil. However, she still faces ongoing trials and a 4.5-month imprisonment sentence for non-compliance under the NSL, highlighting the law’s broad reach and impact on civic freedoms.
In a striking revelation, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) identified Chow’s ongoing detention as retribution for her peaceful activism and outspoken political views. This observation aligns with CIVICUS Monitor’s 2023 assessment, which officially downgraded Hong Kong’s civic space status to ‘closed’ – the most critical classification.
CIVICUS’s statement underscores the dire context in Hong Kong, where sweeping national security laws, sedition charges against activists, and a significant assault on press freedom contribute to a stifling atmosphere. The organization stresses an alarming trend wherein civic groups face existential threats, resulting in disbandment, relocation, or complete cessation of operations.
Karunanithi further urged, “The continuous targeting of activists like Chow Hang-Tung underscores the broader pattern of repression in Hong Kong. The legal actions initiated under the pretext of the National Security Law starkly contradict international human rights norms and standards.”
CIVICUS called for an end to all criminal proceedings against activists like Chow and appealed to the international community’s collective conscience and responsibility to intervene. The organization firmly implored global leaders to hold Hong Kong authorities accountable for the systematic erosion of fundamental human rights and civic freedoms.
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