Civil society group hightlights worsening HK rights violations

Local | 10 Apr 2018 2:10 pm

More than 40 civil society organizations in Hong Kong have backed a report to the United Nations warning of a deterioration in the rule of law in the territory and growing concerns about human rights.

In a submission to the UN Human Rights Council, the Hong Kong Universal Periodic Review Coalition also sets out more than 100 recommendations for the SAR's authorities to improve the rights of a range of minority groups, including migrant workers, refugees and the disabled.

The coalition, led by groups including the Civil Human Rights Front, Justice Centre Hong Kong, Pink Alliance and Hong Kong Watch, highlights a list of concerns from human rights activists being barred from entering the territory, physical attacks on politicians and journalists, and the suspected abduction and detention of five booksellers in 2015.

"The HKSAR should immediately undertake an independent and public investigation into the circumstances regarding the detention and abduction of the Causeway Bay booksellers," the report says.

It adds that the SAR government should take immediate action to ensure the safety of one of the publishers, Gui Minhai, who was snatched by mainland agents for a second time in January this year. The coalition says Hong Kong should call for Gui's unconditional release.

The coalition has also brought up the disqualification of Demosisto's Agnes Chow Ting from last month's Legco by-elections, the harsher sentences sought by the government for pro-democracy protesters, and an increasing use of the Public Order Ordinance to arrest and prosecute protesters, thereby "restricting assembly rights and human rights activism".

It also said that Beijing's intervention in the 2016 Legco oath-taking row went beyond an interpretation of the Basic Law and undermined trust in the judiciary. 

The report warns that civil society fears that the future introduction of Article 23 national security legislation "will be used to suppress human rights and democratic development". It says such legislation should only be put forward once universal suffrage has been implemented in Hong Kong.

Other issues raised include people from ethnic minorities reporting that they are being targeted by the police, and official documents being published only in Chinese and not the other official language, English. 

A spokesman for the coalition, Simon Henderson from the Justice Centre, said many of their recommendations have already been made by United Nations treaty bodies or the Law Reform Commission. 

"For example, there is no legislation against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Henderson said.

"That is a measure that should be relatively straightforward to implement. Surveys have demonstrated that the Hong Kong public support such a measure and the delay in actually implementing such a measure is out of step with similar like-minded jurisdictions."

The UN Human Rights Council is expected to consider the submission as part of its Universal Periodic Review on China this November.

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