Concerns over Hong Kong's human rights situation are "unwarranted, unfounded and unsubstantiated," Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Cheung attended the Universal Periodic Review on China, including Hong Kong and Macau, in Geneva, Switzerland, as a member of the China Delegation.
The review examines the human rights performance of all 193 members of the UN, who are also allowed to suggest solutions, raise questions and make statements to other countries.
Hong Kong became an unprecedented focus at the meeting as 12 countries expressed concerns regarding human rights issues in the SAR, while there were none in the previous review in 2013.
In response, Chueng said the concerns "arise from misconception and a lack of understanding of our real situation."
Asked about the visa rejection of Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, Cheung said it is groundless to say free press and free speech are under threat.
"Some 80 foreign media organizations operate in Hong Kong and rigorously perform their role as a watchdog," he added.
Explaining the disqualification of electoral candidates, Cheung said a person who promotes Hong Kong independence or self-determination cannot uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the SAR.
Demosisto's Joshua Wong Chi-fung took issue with Cheung yesterday, saying the disqualification of candidates is "a stark form of political censorship" showing that "the red lines are drawn more and higher."
He also accused Beijing of putting pressure on the UN Human Rights Council after Demosisto and six other groups were removed from the final document that summaries opinions from civil society.
Writing to Wong to explain the removal, a UN official said the UN "must respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the state concerned."
Demosisto, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy and five other groups have released a joint statement demanding a further explanation.
Simon Henderson, spokesman of Hong Kong Universal Periodic Review Coalition, said the increasing international attention on Hong Kong human rights issues shows a major diplomatic shift by other countries.
The fact that the government sent a high-ranking official to represent Hong Kong also shows that it has noticed that the issues have eroded Hong Kong's reputation in recent years.
He called on the SAR to send friendly signals to the international community by accepting recommendations suggested by other countries.