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NGOs upset at gov’t reply to UN queries on discrimination in HK

04 September 2018

The NGO delegates to the UN Hearing in Geneva upon arrival in Hong Kong.

By Vir B. Lumicao

A group of NGO representatives to the 96th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “very disappointed” at the Hong Kong government’s failure to respond to issues raised by the committee.

The 12-member group went to Geneva on Aug 6 to present submissions from 54 Hong Kong NGOs to committee members before its hearings on the reports submitted by the governments of China, Hong Kong and Macau on Aug 10 and 13.

The lobbyists led by Law Yuk-kai of  Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor; Phyllis Cheung of Hong Kong Unison and former legislator Emily Lau, came home unhappy at the way the government responded to the committee’s questions.        “The reply did not reflect the actual situation, the reply was very limited. …we are very disappointed at how the government responded. It did not respond at all to the issues,” said Lau, who is also from the Human Rights Monitor.

Lau said that instead of answering the questions raised by the committee, Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Andy Chan only waved a sheaf of paper and told the committee that the government’s responses can be found in certain paragraphs of the prepared responses.

Law Yuk-kai said it remains doubtful if the Hong Kong government is sincerely responding to international human rights protection.

“The government simply avoided questions and refused to provide updates on progress made since the key recommendations made by the committee in 2009,” Law said.

He told The SUN that Chan and his delegation went to the hearings with a set of responses
done at the last minute and handed out only halfway into the session.

“That kind of attitude is less serious,” Law said. “We can even say that this is an omen to us, because it shows us that our government doesn’t take the international human rights mechanism seriously.”

Cheung for her part said the government’s response was “very insincere”.  She said the committee would come out with its written observations on Hong Kong’s response to the recommendations by Aug 30 or 31. “We hope the government will actually take a look at the recommendations. It will be very  embarrassing for the government if these recommendations are the same as they posted in 2009. That means nothing has moved in the past nine years and it will be very embarrassing for the government,” Cheung said.

In the meetings, the delegation members said they had in-depth discussions with the committee, briefing it on key issues of concern in the situation of racial discrimination in Hong Kong and the inadequacy of protections against it.

They said committee members followed up with great interest the institutional safeguards of human rights, such as the role of the Equal Opportunities Commission, its  effectiveness, as well as the effectiveness of the Race Discrimination Ordinance and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The delegates said on the first day of hearing on Aug 10, committee members aired their concern about five areas of racial discrimination in Hong Kong.These are 1) the slow progress on the reform of the EOC and the Race Discrimination Ordinance to address numerous flaws embedded in both; 2) education policies towards ethnic minorities; 3) institutional racial discrimination faced by migrant domestic workers on multiple fronts; 4) the inadequacy of measures to combat human trafficking; and 5) the screening mechanism for non-refoulement claimants.

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