The United Nations human rights body on Thursday called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to allow the people of Hong Kong to nominate candidates for elections, as pro-democracy protesters occupied stretches of the semiautonomous city's streets for a fourth consecutive week.
A panel of 18 independent experts working for the U.N. Human Rights Committee said Beijing's insistence on vetting electoral candidates in the 2017 race for the post of Hong Kong's chief executive was in violation of international human rights treaties.
Hong Kong has signed and ratified the U.N.'s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, passed by the General Assembly in 1966, while Beijing has signed but not ratified it.
"The need to ensure universal suffrage ... means both the right to be elected as well as the right to vote," committee chairman Konstantine Vardzelashvili told the panel in Geneva on Thursday.
"The main concerns of committee members were focused on the right to stand for elections without unreasonable restrictions," he said in comments concluding the meeting.
Hong Kong Democratic Party chairwoman and lawmaker Emily Lau welcomed the statement from the committee.
"The committee was clear that what is proposed by China is not compliant with the Covenant," Lau told Reuters. "It is not universal suffrage."
"One person, one vote, but the problem is the people who will stand is very limited," she said.
Panel member Christine Chanet said the committee is against the filtering of election candidates.
"The problem is that Beijing wants to vet candidates ... We have now put some pressure, but not too heavily, as we absolutely need China's cooperation," she told Reuters.
Pan-democratic politicians and Occupy Central campaigners in Hong Kong have dismissed an Aug. 31 edict by China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), ruling out public nomination of candidates as "fake universal suffrage."
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong since Sept. 28, calling for the resignation of embattled chief executive Leung Chun-ying and for the NPC ruling to be withdrawn.
Student leaders held live televised talks with Hong Kong officials on Tuesday, but have dismissed government offers of minor changes to a 1,200 nominations committee as "too vague," vowing to remain in occupation of streets near government headquarters in Admiralty and in the busy Kowloon shopping district of Mong Kok.
Hong Kong civil servants made an anonymous statement via Facebook in support of the Occupy Central movement, which has also garnered growing public support since it began, recent opinion polls showed.
Officials from the government information service, the police and the judiciary posted pictures of their ID cards with their names blacked out, after a group of 1,300 civil servants said they disagreed with the public sector union's criticism of the movement.
As hundreds of protesters geared up for another night behind the barricades on the Occupy protest sites, a group of climbers unfurled a giant banner from Kowloon's iconic Lion Rock.
The huge yellow banner bearing an umbrella logo and the slogan "I want genuine universal suffrage" was unfurled by climbers abseiling down the cliff face, a video posted by protest group "Hong Kong Spidie" to YouTube showed.
Group spokesman Andreas told local media that more than a dozen people had taken part in the operation, which took a week to prepare.
"What can we see when we look with the spirit of Lion Rock?" he told government broadcaster RTHK, in a reference to the rock's symbolism of Hong Kong's "can-do" spirit.
"What we see is an opportunity slipping away; it's clearly not in keeping with the spirit of Lion Rock," he said.
"We want people to know that this movement is very important to the people of Hong Kong ... because it represents a chance at fairness."
Meanwhile, China hit out on Thursday at U.S. smooth jazz musician Kenny G, who is hugely popular in China, after he tweeted about his visit to the site of Occupy Central protests in Admiralty on Wednesday.
"Kenny G's musical works are widely popular in China, but China's position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.
"We hope that foreign governments and individuals will speak and act cautiously and not support the Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form," she added.
The saxophonist, whose real name is Kenneth Gorelick, later claimed via social media that his visit hadn't been intended to show support for the protests, a claim refuted by those who met with him, the South China Morning Post reported.
"I was in Hong Kong as a stop on my way to perform at Mission Hills and happened to walk by the protest area as I was walking around Hong Kong as a tourist," he wrote.
"Some fans took my picture and it's unfair that I am being used by anyone to say that I am showing support for the demonstrators."
"I am not supporting the demonstrators ... Please don't mistake my peace sign for any other sign than a sign for peace," he said.
China's official media has also repeatedly called for homegrown Hong Kong celebrities who publicly supported the Occupy protesters to be banned from working in mainland China, across the internal border.
Several hundred protesters remained at Occupy sites late on Thursday, ready to stay in spite of High Court injunctions brought by public transportation groups ordering them to remove obstructions to traffic.
"We will carry on like this, occupying this place," a student protester who gave the name Simon told RFA. "This has nothing to do with the injunctions."
"I have already been here a long time, and this is already a civil disobedience movement that breaks the law," he said. "I just think this is a feint on their part, but ... I am prepared to accept being found guilty by the court."
Senior police superintendent Steve Hui once more called on protesters to comply with the injunctions, although the police have no mandate to enforce them.
"The injunctions are a civil matter, so the police won't directly enforce them," he said.
And legal expert Eric Cheung said enforcing the injunctions could be difficult, because it is hard to sort out exactly who among protesters and bystanders is responsible for the barricades.
Reported by Lin Jing and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan and Yang Jiadai for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.