government yesterday rejected much of this week's US State Department
report on human rights in Hong Kong, saying its record was "much more
satisfactory than many parts of the world".
The report, part of the United States' annual worldwide human rights
review, criticises the inability of SAR legislators to influence
government policy and residents' limited democratic participation.
Judicial independence, freedom of association, expression and religion
are presented as broadly defended in the territory, but under threat
from mainland interests.
It said the government's request to the National People's Congress to
reinterpret the 1999 right-of-abode ruling by the SAR's Court of Final
Appeal "raised questions about the potential future independence and
ultimate authority of Hong Kong's judiciary".
The report also highlights self-censorship by local journalists and
editors in relation to their China coverage, giving the example of
three newspapers that refused to print advertisements for the Falun
Gong movement, which is banned on the mainland.
It mentioned the demotion and eventual resignation of the South China
Morning Post's China editor Willy Wo-Lap Lam after alleged pressure
from the newspaper's management to "tone down" his China column.
It also commented on the Hong Kong iMail bringing back Larry Feign's
Lily Wong cartoon strip that "had been dropped abruptly by the SCMP
in 1995 after it implicated then-PRC Premier Li Peng in the sale of
organs from executed prisoners". The report mentioned the furore
among politicians, human rights activists and the media after comments
made by Hong Kong-based mainland officials that businessman would
suffer the consequences of dealing with pro-independence businesses in
Taiwan and that the SAR media should censor their Taiwan coverage.
The report also highlights Hong Kong's role as a transit point and
destination for human trafficking run by organised crime.
The report raised concerns about the effectiveness of the government
and independent watchdogs meant to monitor police, workplace safety,
labour rights and privacy. The Equal Opportunities Commission was
criticised for passivity in taking offenders to court, the power of
the Ombudsman to protect human rights was limited, and the Labour
Tribunal was reluctant to issue orders against employers.
SAR police were accused of violence against people in its custody and
intimidation of migrant workers.
"Human rights groups have called for a more independent monitoring
body [than the internally administered Complaints against Police
Office], noting long delays in hearing some allegations, the large
difference between the number of complaints received and the few that
are substantiated, the light punishment that police officers receive
when complaints are found to be substantiated, and the unwillingness
of some witnesses to pursue complaints for fear of retribution," the
It said police were accused of using "excessive force when they used
pepper-spray and hit demonstrators" to remove students and
right-of-abode demonstrators from government offices in June.
It reported violence against women in the home and workplace, and
discrimination against girls in the education system, the handicapped,
ethnic minorities and the elderly.
Last night the government remained adamant that supportive and
critical opinions of the government were freely reported in Hong
Kong's media. It maintained that "impartial and thorough"
investigations were conducted against police and were "subject to
close scrutiny by the Independent Police Complaints Council".
Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying said the police had dealt
with demonstrators better than those in other countries, a point also
made by local deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) Chan
A government statement said Hong Kong's law-enforcement departments
spared no effort in preventing the territory from being used as a
migrant trafficking centre.
The US report said the SAR government protected religious freedom in
full, pointing out that the Falun Gong and other groups practised
freely and held regular public demonstrations against mainland
policies in the SAR.
`Evil cult' blamed: Page A9
Editorial: Page A10
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