Govt objects to unfair criticisms

July 27, 2022

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government strongly objects to unfair criticisms from the United Nations Human Rights Committee.


It issued the statement today after the committee furnished its concluding observations on the fourth report of the Hong Kong SAR in the light of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR).


The Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Hong Kong SAR Government is pleased that the committee appreciates the constructive dialogue it has had with the delegation and welcomes the detailed replies given by the delegation during and after the meetings.


However, the committee continues to express unsubstantiated criticisms towards the Hong Kong SAR despite the delegation's efforts in addressing members' concerns and clarifying the misunderstandings of the human rights situation in the city.


In the concluding observations, the committee commended the Hong Kong SAR Government in a number of areas, including the enhancements of legal protection from discrimination and harassment, the establishment of a Commission on Children, the introduction of statutory paternity leave and the launch of the Unified Screening Mechanism.


The bureau noted that the committee has also raised a number of concerns and recommendations without giving due weight to the unique circumstances of the city which were explained by the delegation time and again.


The committee should view the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law in the proper context with due regard to the background of the violent social unrests preceding the enactment of the law, and the actual operation and effect of the law, the bureau stressed.


On law enforcement, it added that the committee should duly recognise that any law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the people or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their background.


In particular, for enforcement actions in respect of the sedition offence to which the committee has made specific reference, due regard should be given to the soft resistance acts, hate speeches and publications which have radicalised the general public since 2019.


On the committee's comments on procedures provided under the National Security Law, it should be stressed that none of them would undermine judicial independence or right to a fair hearing under Article 14 of the ICCPR.


Additionally, the designation of judges by the Chief Executive (CE) to handle cases involving offences endangering national security only involves designating a list of judges from existing judges, rather than choosing a particular judge to preside over a specific case, and the assignment of cases to individual designated judges remains to be the independent decisions of the Judiciary, not the CE.


Regarding the use of force by Police and its oversight mechanism, the Hong Kong SAR Government would like to reiterate that the committee's remarks that excessive force had been used by Police have disregarded the extreme violence inflicted by the rioters.


Furthermore, the committee's concern that the recent legal aid reform has restricted the rights to access to legal aid and to counsel of one's choice, is unsubstantiated and factually incorrect.


The bureau stated that the right to choose lawyers is not absolute. It is not a right to have a specific legal representative of one's choice. A fair trial does not necessarily mean that a party must be legally represented by a lawyer of his or her own choice.


On the improved electoral system, the bureau pointed out that there is no cure-all in respect of electoral system and how it should be improved. The development of democracy in the Hong Kong SAR must be consistent with the city's constitutional order under the Constitution, the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle. The political, economic, social, cultural and historical circumstances of the Hong Kong SAR must also be taken into account.


In response to the committee's repeated recommendation for establishing an independent human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, the bureau said: “Human rights are guaranteed constitutionally by both the Constitution and the Basic Law, and is underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judiciary.


“The Hong Kong SAR Government will ensure that the existing mechanism continues to effectively protect fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and does not see any need for the establishment of an additional human rights institution.”


Concerning the committee's recommendation on measures to safeguard the rights of foreign domestic helpers, the bureau reiterated that through multipronged strategies of enforcement, publicity and the provision of supporting measures, the Hong Kong SAR Government attaches great importance to safeguarding the rights of helpers working in the city.


“We do not tolerate any exploitation or abuse of helpers. Helpers who have been ill-treated by employers and employment agencies are encouraged to report to law enforcement agencies and/or the Labour Department promptly.”

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