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HK takes flak from intl community over human rights

13 November 2018


In an unprecedented move, 12 countries have used a United Nations’ review of human rights in China to express concern over deteriorating rights in Hong Kong, including those of migrant workers.

It was the first time any country had addressed concerns over Hong Kong at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing on China, held this year on Nov 6. At the last UPR hearing on China held in 2013, not one recommendation was made on Hong Kong.

At the hearing in Geneva this year, seven countries made recommendations, while five sent questions ahead to raise concerns.



Among those that made recommendations were the Philippines and Indonesia, which both expressed alarm over the treatment and inadequate protection of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The Philippines suggested an enhancement of the monitoring of the standard employment contract for migrant domestic workers, while Indonesia called on China to consider ratifying the International Covenant on the Protection of Migrant Workers Rights.


Annie Li of Justice Centre Hong Kong said the stance taken by the two biggest sources of migrant workers in Hong Kong was significant.

“That the two major sending countries of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia, make recommendations for Hong Kong is unprecedented. It shows Hong Kong has to strengthen the protection of migrant worker rights in the region’s competition for workers to care for the ageing population,” she said.




Five other countries submitted recommendations on Hong Kong, ranging from freedom of speech and assembly, universal suffrage, and LGBT rights. They included Australia, Canada, France, Croatia and Ireland.

Simon Henderson, spokesperson for the Hong Kong UPR Coalition and senior policy adviser at Justice Centre, said the outcome of the UPR hearing marked a substantial shift in foreign policy towards Hong Kong.

“The declining human rights environment has clearly harmed Hong Kong’s international reputation, despite persistent denials of senior government officials,” he said.

“This sends a strong signal to the Hong Kong government that it needs to change course. Failure to do so will only further undermine the core values which have made Hong Kong successful and threaten future prosperity.”
Henderson urged the Hong Kong government to accept the recommendations and work with civil society to get them implemented.

The recommendations by Australia, Canada and France on the freedoms of speech, assembly and self-governance were particularly welcomed by Hong Kong UPR Coalition members.


One, Wong Yik Mo of Civil Human Rights Front, said “China’s plan to marginalise Hong Kong is in vain.”

“Given Hong Kong’s special status, the international community will not overlook the increasing encroachment on human rights in Hong Kong, even with the severe situation in the mainland. Unlike China, the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) applies to Hong Kong and the government has more obligations to protect and improve the human rights environment here.”

Hong Kong Watch’s Benedict Rogers said the message to Hong Kong is that it is time to prove its commitment to the core values enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“The recommendations are a sign that governments around the world recognise that Hong Kong has experienced unprecedented restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms in the last five years. Draconian legislation has been used to prosecute political protestors, freedom of expression has been undermined, and the rule of law is under pressure,” he said.

The Coalition also said it was disappointed that Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung had failed to identify steps the government will take to counter growing restrictions on freedom of expression and the press in his speech to the UN.

Cheung, who was in Geneva as part of the China delegation, had earlier deflected concerns raised by other countries.

"Recent concerns over some aspects of our human rights situation are unwarranted, unfounded and unsubstantiated. They arise from misconception and a lack of understanding of our real situation," Cheung said.

But Shirley Yam of the Hong Kong Journalists Association disagreed, saying the denial of visa to Financial Times correspondent Victor Mallet was a clear sign of Beijing’s “interference in our press and expression freedom.”

The members of the Coalition are Civil Human Rights Front, Disabilities CV, The Hong Kong Society for Asylum-Seekers and Refugees, Hong Kong Watch, Justice Centre Hong Kong, Les Corner Empowerment Association, PEN Hong Kong, Pink Alliance and Planet Ally.

The Universal Periodic Review process is a peer-review mechanism where UN member states can highlight concerns and make recommendations to fellow states. The hearings provide countries with just 45 seconds to put their points across to the nation under review.

 HK takes flak from intl community over human rights
In an unprecedented move, 12 countries have used a United Nations’ review of human rights in China to express concern over deteriorating rights in Hong Kong, including those of migrant workers.

It was the first time any country had addressed concerns over Hong Kong at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing on China, held this year on Nov 6. At the last UPR hearing on China held in 2013, not one recommendation was made on Hong Kong.

At the hearing in Geneva this year, seven countries made recommendations, while five sent questions ahead to raise concerns.

Among those that made recommendations were the Philippines and Indonesia, which both expressed alarm over the treatment and inadequate protection of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The Philippines suggested an enhancement of the monitoring of the standard employment contract for migrant domestic workers, while Indonesia called on China to consider ratifying the International Covenant on the Protection of Migrant Workers Rights.

Annie Li of Justice Centre Hong Kong said the stance taken by the two biggest sources of migrant workers in Hong Kong was significant.

“That the two major sending countries of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia, make recommendations for Hong Kong is unprecedented. It shows Hong Kong has to strengthen the protection of migrant worker rights in the region’s competition for workers to care for the ageing population,” she said.

Five other countries submitted recommendations on Hong Kong, ranging from freedom of speech and assembly, universal suffrage, and LGBT rights. They included Australia, Canada, France, Croatia and Ireland.

Simon Henderson, spokesperson for the Hong Kong UPR Coalition and senior policy adviser at Justice Centre, said the outcome of the UPR hearing marked a substantial shift in foreign policy towards Hong Kong.

“The declining human rights environment has clearly harmed Hong Kong’s international reputation, despite persistent denials of senior government officials,” he said.

“This sends a strong signal to the Hong Kong government that it needs to change course. Failure to do so will only further undermine the core values which have made Hong Kong successful and threaten future prosperity.”

Henderson urged the Hong Kong government to accept the recommendations and work with civil society to get them implemented.

The recommendations by Australia, Canada and France on the freedoms of speech, assembly and self-governance were particularly welcomed by Hong Kong UPR Coalition members.

One, Wong Yik Mo of Civil Human Rights Front, said “China’s plan to marginalise Hong Kong is in vain.”

“Given Hong Kong’s special status, the international community will not overlook the increasing encroachment on human rights in Hong Kong, even with the severe situation in the mainland. Unlike China, the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) applies to Hong Kong and the government has more obligations to protect and improve the human rights environment here.”

Hong Kong Watch’s Benedict Rogers said the message to Hong Kong is that it is time to prove its commitment to the core values enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“The recommendations are a sign that governments around the world recognise that Hong Kong has experienced unprecedented restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms in the last five years. Draconian legislation has been used to prosecute political protestors, freedom of expression has been undermined, and the rule of law is under pressure,” he said.

The Coalition also said it was disappointed that Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung had failed to identify steps the government will take to counter growing restrictions on freedom of expression and the press in his speech to the UN.

Cheung, who was in Geneva as part of the China delegation, had earlier deflected concerns raised by other countries.

"Recent concerns over some aspects of our human rights situation are unwarranted, unfounded and unsubstantiated. They arise from misconception and a lack of understanding of our real situation," Cheung said.

But Shirley Yam of the Hong Kong Journalists Association disagreed, saying the denial of visa to Financial Times correspondent Victor Mallet was a clear sign of Beijing’s “interference in our press and expression freedom.”

The members of the Coalition are Civil Human Rights Front, Disabilities CV, The Hong Kong Society for Asylum-Seekers and Refugees, Hong Kong Watch, Justice Centre Hong Kong, Les Corner Empowerment Association, PEN Hong Kong, Pink Alliance and Planet Ally.

The Universal Periodic Review process is a peer-review mechanism where UN member states can highlight concerns and make recommendations to fellow states. The hearings provide countries with just 45 seconds to put their points across to the nation under review.

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