Human rights concerns addressed

February 16, 2023

A Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government delegation addressed concerns raised by the UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights about the city’s human rights situation.


Such matters were addressed while attending the committee’s meetings for consideration of the city’s fourth report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on February 15 and 16, the Hong Kong SAR Government explained.


It stressed that the delegation answered the committee's questions and responded to issues regarding the human rights situation and social developments in the Hong Kong SAR.


Apart from pointing out that the Hong Kong SAR Government continues its firm commitment to upholding Hong Kong residents’ rights and freedoms as protected under the law following the implementation of the National Security Law, the delegation noted that the security law clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in the city.


The rights and freedoms including the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration that Hong Kong residents enjoy under the Basic Law, the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) and the ICESCR as applied to Hong Kong shall be protected in accordance with the law. Any measures or enforcement actions taken under the National Security Law must observe the aforesaid principle.


All law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people and entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation, the delegation said.


Nonetheless, such rights and freedoms are not absolute, the delegation emphasised, adding that the ICCPR expressly states that some of them may be subject to restrictions that are necessary for protection of national security, public order, etc.


Regarding the committee’s concern about bail arrangement, the delegation reiterated that the cardinal importance of safeguarding national security and preventing and suppressing acts endangering national security explains why the security law introduces more stringent conditions to the grant of bail in relation to offences endangering national security.


The delegation also stated the interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the National Security Law does not confer additional power on the Chief Executive, and only clarified that the provision is applicable in handling the controversy concerning overseas lawyers.


The certification system is fair and reasonable, with a solid legal basis. The certificate issued under Article 47 of the National Security Law serves as a piece of evidence only, albeit conclusive, in the case before the court, and it is still for the court to decide on other issues in the outcome of the case, it added.


There is no usurpation of the function of the court, the delegation said, noting that the arrangement does not impair the independent judicial power of the Hong Kong courts.


As for the allegation of censorship on textbooks, the delegation made it clear that the Hong Kong SAR Government does not compile or publish textbooks, noting that the review mechanism that was put in place is to ensure textbooks are of good quality, factually correct and are in line with the curriculum rationale.


The review is undertaken by panels comprising both internal and external reviewers, and more importantly, textbooks are only one kind of learning and teaching resource. Teachers can supplement and enrich the learning and teaching resources in accordance with the aims and objectives of the curriculum and the learning needs of students, the delegation outlined.


Following the two days of meetings in Geneva, the committee will compile and publish its concluding observations in early March.


The delegation emphasised to the committee that Hong Kong people continue to enjoy the legitimate rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Basic Law and the relevant provisions of international covenants as applied to Hong Kong.


Leveraging on the motherland's strong support in the National 14th Five-Year Plan, the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt & Road Initiative, the delegation added that the Hong Kong SAR Government is working at full steam to forge ahead with openness, diversity and harmony under the well-proven "one country, two systems".

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