23 April 1999
Dear Ms Ip,
An Open Letter to the Secretary for Security
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor is concerned about the Director of Immigration's refusal to permit Wang Dan and other overseas dissidents to enter into Hong Kong for "operational reasons" and that the decisions were said to be made in line with "existing policies". As a result, these dissidents have been excluded from an event to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the June 4th Massacre.
The Government has denied that the refusal to allow the dissidents to enter Hong Kong was based on political reasons. Instead its spokesman has said that its decision was based on "operational considerations" and "existing policy". Human Rights Monitor does not consider this to be at all helpful. The public has absolutely no idea what these "operational considerations" and "existing policies" are. In addition, some of the dissidents had been allowed to visit Hong Kong before the re-unification. Information Co-ordinator Stephen Lam Sui-lung even said that all "government decisions are being taken in the long-term interest of Hong Kong and for ensuring success of the 'one country two systems policy'." This further fuels speculation that political considerations have been taken into account.
The explanation advanced by the HKSAR Government only strengthens the belief held by many that Hong Kong is acting in a way so as to further the Mainland's well known policy of excluding Mainland dissidents from coming back to all parts of the People's Republic of China. This is achieved by adopting a policy of discrimination as to who can come into Hong Kong, on the ground of political opinion and by restricting the freedom of speech of Hong Kong in respect of the discussion on further development of democracy in China.
The Hong Kong Government said that it was not under any pressure from the Mainland Government. If true, then in the absence of any explanation, this appears to be a case of self censorship. It will destroy the belief and concept of "one country two systems and no change for fifty years" which is provided for in our Basic Law.
Up until now, the Government has refused to explain "the existing policies" and "operational reasons" concerning these cases. Human Rights Monitor believes this to be an irresponsible move on the Government's part contrary to the concept of basic fairness as required in administrative law and is bound to arouse suspicions. Human Rights Monitor believes that had this been an individual case, the decision to exclude would have been more easily understood. However, this case involves 11 applicants with a common background of being Mainland dissidents in de facto exile. This raises the public suspicion of political censorship by the Hong Kong Government and threatens the freedom of expression of Hong Kong and consequently poses questions to the credibility of the Hong Kong Administration. Therefore the HKSAR Government has created a situation requiring them to explain their own decisions especially where "the existing policies" and "operational reasons" common to those cases.
At the very least, even if the Director of Immigration would not say in public what reasons were behind the rejection of the applications, the Director should explain the grounds of refusal to each applicant. We understand that this has not been done. Otherwise not only will the people and applicants will not know how to defend their own interest, lawyers and human rights workers will not be able to advise their clients as to their rights and the Government and the responsible officials will be left to exercise their unlimited "discretion" arbitrarily in a way totally incompatible with the concept of a limited government. Human Rights Monitor calls on the Secretary for Security and the Immigration Department to explain what exactly are "the existing policies" and "operational reasons" they are relying on in their refusal. We also call on the government to review its decisions in respect of the applications. This may appease the doubt that the public has on the administration, and may renew the public's confidence in the Government's determination to uphold the principle of "one country two systems" without compromises in any forms including self-censorship at the expense of Hong Kong's freedoms.
It is to our knowledge that in accordance with section 53 of the Immigration Ordinance, any person aggrieved by a decision, act or omission of any public officer taken, done or made in the exercise or performance of any powers, functions or duties under the Ordinance may by notice in writing lodged with the Chief Secretary within the time prescribed in subsection (2) object to that decision, act or omission. However, how can these applicants be expected to be able to apply for a review of their application, if they do not even know what grounds are said to bring into "operational considerations" "existing policies", and there are doubts as to whether their review can be effective. The Government has regrettably also failed to inform the applicants of the channel for appeal.
Human Rights Monitor calls on the Secretary for Security and the Immigration Department to explain what exactly are "the existing policies" and "operational reasons" they are relying on in their refusal, so that everyone can see a factual basis for refusing these applications. This will also renew the public's confidence in the Government's determination to uphold the principle of "one country two systems" without compromises in any forms including self-censorship at the expense of Hong Kong's freedoms.
Human Rights Monitor hopes that different political opinions and freedom of speech will be maintained in Hong Kong and the Government will refrain from placing obstacles in the way to peaceful academic or political discussions.
Law Yuk Kai
c.c. Mr. Ambrose Lee Siu Kwong, Director of Immigration