Letter to Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

25 February 2000

H E Mary Robinson,
High Commissioner for Human Rights,
CH-1211 Geneva 10,

By fax

Dear Mrs Robinson,

Re: Hong Kong Visit

We are glad to know that you will be visiting Hong Kong next Tuesday and will have the opportunity to meet with senior figures of the Government of the People's Republic of China and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region during your trip to Hong Kong and Mainland China.

We ask that you take this opportunity to speak to the senior figures about the following matters --

(a) the undermining of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR in seeking a re-interpretation from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of provisions of the Basic Law of the HKSAR that had been interpreted by the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong in adjudicating cases on the right of abode of children born of permanent residents of the HKSAR in Mainland China. The re-interpretation issued by the Standing Committee on 26th June 1999 overturned the interpretation of the Court of Final Appeal, which was considered to be in conformity with Article 23 of the ICCPR (respect of family).

(b) the undemocratic political structure of the HKSAR under its Basic Law. The Chief Executive was selected by a committee of 400 persons. The Legislative Council consists of 20 members returned by elections in geographical constituencies; 30 members returned by elections in functional constituencies; and 10 members returned by election committee. Electors in functional constituencies or the election committee may also vote in their respective geographical constituencies. Corporate voting is allowed in functional constituencies with the result that one person may have control of many votes by virtue of his control over companies which are electors in functional constituencies. Women are under-represented in functional constituencies.

(c) the lack of a statutory Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints of human rights abuses. The UN Human Rights Committee and other treaty bodies have been calling for the establishment of such a national institution since 1995 but the HKSAR Government claimed that the existing mechanisms (including the courts, the Equal Opportunities Commission with its limited mandate on sex discrimination, disability discrimination and family status discrimination, and the Ombudsman) were adequate.

(d) the uncertainty over the protection in the proposed rendition agreement between the central authorities and the HKSAR. It is imperative that the agreement on rendition of fugitive offenders currently under negotiation between the central authorities and the HKSAR government must comply fully with international standards, including the UN Model Treaty on Extradition, and the practice of territories which have abolished the death penalty and provide effective protection against the risk of imposition of the death penalty or of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and lack of due process. We note that whereas the HKSAR has abolished the death penalty, Mainland China has not.

(e) the lack of a Race Discrimination Ordinance to tackle race discrimination in Hong Kong's private sector with over 200,000 migrant workers and domestic helpers as well as constant influx of arrivals from Mainland China. Complaints on race discrimination have been received by the Equal Opportunities Commission which has no jurisdiction over discrimination other than sex, disability and family status. Legislators are also prevented from moving any bill on race discrimination without the consent of the Chief Executive.

Please find enclosed for your convenient reference a copy of the Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee released in November 1999 and a copy of the Concluding Comments on the Initial Report of the Hong Kong SAR under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women issued in February 1999. You will note that the Committee raised as matters of concern many problems in Hong Kong.

We urge you to raise the said five matters in your discussion with the senior figures of the HKSAR and issues (a), (b) and (d) with those of the People's Republic of China. We hope that your discussion with them will assist in the amelioration of the human rights situation in Hong Kong.

We look forward to meeting you.

Best Regards,

Alan Abrahams
Chairperson, Amnesty International Hong Kong Section

Ramon Bulton
Executie Director, Asian Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos

Hong Kong Christian Institute

Lekha Nath Koirala
Coordinator, Far East Overseas Nepalese Association (FEONA-Hong Kong)

HO Hei-wah
Chairman, Hong Kong Human Rights Commission

LAW Yuk-kai
Director, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

Mak Yin Ting
Chairperson, Hong Kong Journalists Association

Gladys LI, SC
Chairman, on behalf of Council of JUSTICE
(Hong Kong Section of International Commission of Jurists)

Mary YUEN,
Executive Secretary, Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese

Mak Hoi Wah
Chairman, Movement Against Discrimination

Pam Baker
Secretary, Refugee Concern Hong Kong

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