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HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION OF CHINA

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION OF CHINA
13 March 2013

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

Chang King-yiu, the Permanent Secretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, presenting the report, highlighted issues which showed the Government’s commitment to human rights in the areas concerning racial discrimination, enhancement of legal aid services and sexual orientation.  The Race Discrimination Ordinance was enacted into full operation in 2009, protecting individuals against discrimination on the basis of race in the areas of employment.  She also pointed to the screening mechanism for torture, which was enhanced in December 2009.  According to the decision adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China in December 2007, universal suffrage may be implemented for electing the Chief Executive in year 2017.  After that, universal suffrage may be implemented for electing all members of the Legislative Council.

During the discussion, Committee Experts raised questions about the establishment of an independent human rights commission or institute.  What steps would be taken to strengthen the Equal Opportunities Committee and increase its independence?  Concerning the electoral process, the Committee asked the delegation to outline its concept for universal suffrage in relation to article 25.  Another Expert asked what could be done to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation in the private sphere.  Clarification was requested on details of deaths in prison.  An Expert asked about human trafficking in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  He had heard there was practically no trafficking of persons.  However, 12 persons were identified last year who were victims of trafficking. 
 
The delegation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was made up of representatives of the Department of Justice, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the Security Bureau, and the Police.

In preliminary concluding remarks, the Chairperson of the Committee, Nigel Rodley, said it was clear that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China had a high degree of freedom as well as respect for the rule of law.  He was reassured by the seriousness that the authorities took towards the issue of asylum seekers and that it would be a violation of the Covenant to expose someone to torture.  The physical integrity of children must be guaranteed under the Covenant.  Achieving universal suffrage continued to be a problem but he was reassured by the delegation’s commitment to universal suffrage for the Chief Executive elections by 2017 and for the Legislative Council elections by 2020. 

In her concluding remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China had made improvements in fighting racial discrimination and had enhanced the screening mechanism for torture complaints.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China recognized the importance of protecting the rights of its people and would continue to combat discrimination.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China did not lack controversial issues but its experience proved the way forward was in talking to opposing groups to build consensus.  The delegation looked forward to a meaningful relationship with the Committee as well as its ongoing suggestions.

The concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee on the report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China will be released towards the end of the session of the Committee, which concludes on Thursday, 28 March.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be held at 4 p.m. this afternoon to discuss its methods of work.

Report

The third periodic report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China can be read here (CCPR/C/CHN-HKG/3).

Presentation of the Report

LIU ZHENMIN, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China enjoyed a high degree of autonomy.  It enjoyed executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.  The experience of the past 16 years had proven the success of the “one country, two systems” model.  China was not yet a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The Chinese Government had already transferred to the Committee previous periodic reports of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and they had successfully gone through the review of the Committee.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China attached great importance to the review of the third periodic report and the head of the delegation would make a detailed review of the report. 

NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, said it would be good if China could one day be a party to the Covenant and looked forward to a constructive dialogue.

CHANG KING-YIU, Permanent Secretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, highlighted issues which showed the Government’s commitment to human rights in the areas of racial discrimination, enhancement of legal aid services and sexual orientation.  The Race Discrimination Ordinance was enacted into full operation in 2009, protecting individuals against discrimination on the basis of race in the areas of employment and advertising, among others.  The screening mechanism for torture claims was enhanced in December 2009.  The mechanism was further underpinned by legislation enacted in December 2012.  Each claimant was given reasonable time to establish and submit a claim.  An appeals mechanism with an independent body could hold an oral hearing if it believed the appeal could not be justly determined otherwise.  Torture claimants had the right to legal assistance throughout the entire screening process.  A claimant could not be removed to another country where it was believed the claimant could be subject to torture.  Humanitarian assistance was offered so that claimants would not become destitute during the process.  Since the implementation of the screening mechanism, 99 per cent of claimants had applied for publicly-funded legal assistance and all had been provided with it. 

In May 2011, the Government increased the financial eligibility limits and the number of applications for legal aid approved under the supplementary legal aid scheme increased by about 40 per cent in 2012 as compared to 2011.  In 2012, the scope of the supplementary legal aid scheme was expanded to cover a wider range of issues.

According to the decision adopted by the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China in December 2007, universal suffrage may be implemented for electing the Chief Executive in year 2017.  After that, universal suffrage may be implemented for electing all members of the Legislative Council.  The implementation of the 2012 constitutional reform package had enhanced the democratic elements of the two electoral methods.  As a result, with 35 legislators returned from the geographical constituencies, and the five returned from the new functional constituencies, close to 60 per cent of all seats in the Legislative Council had an electorate base of over 3 million voters.

Subject to the passage of the amendment bill by the Legislative Council, there would be no more appointed seats from the next term of the District Councils when it commenced in 2016.

The Government was fully committed to attaining universal suffrage for both the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council elections.

Sexual orientation was a controversial subject in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  However, the Government’s position was that no person should be discriminated against on any grounds, including sexual orientation.  Public education and publicity programmes were being undertaken in this regard.

LAU KONG-WAH, Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, answering a question about the role of the incumbent Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the recruitment process was carried out in a rigorous, open and objective matter.  He said any candidate with disabilities was automatically given an interview for the job. 

He also addressed concerns about complaints against the police.  Since the Independent Police Complaint Council had become a statutory body, it had been exercising its statutory powers to monitor and review the handling and investigations of complaints against the police.  From 2009 to March 2012, the Council had seen 15,000 investigation reports.  Disciplinary actions were taken against some 800 police officers in respect of 600 cases.  The number of members serving on the Independent Police Complaint Council had been increased by over 30 per cent from 18 to 24 in late 2010, widening public participation and ensuring the Council would continue to perform its oversight functions effectively.

With regard to concern about human trafficking, he reaffirmed that Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was not a source, transit point or destination for transnational human trafficking activities.

The Government was also committed to protecting the well-being of migrant workers, including foreign domestic helpers, by giving them the same statutory employment protection as local workers and they also had a mandatory standard contract prescribed by the Government, providing minimum wage, suitable accommodation and free medical treatment.

Questions by the Experts

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, the Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report, welcomed the delegation from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  After the consideration of the previous report in 1997, the Committee had recommended that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China set up an independent human rights commission or institute.  The Government had concluded that the existing mechanisms worked well enough and there was no need to establish a new one.  However, the human rights ombudsman himself had said that there were gaps in the Government’s protection of human rights which could be filled by an institute.  There were no powers for the ombudsman to modify policies or to investigate police forces.  Rejecting a human rights institute seemed to be based on an incomplete understanding of the Paris Principles, which included the responsibility of a national institute to submit opinions, reports and proposals to the Government concerning the protection and promotion of human rights. 

Mr. Flinterman also asked about the Equal Opportunities Committee, which lacked enforcement powers.  The Committee should be independent.  What steps would be taken to strengthen the Committee and increase its independence?  How was the recruitment process carried out?

Concerning the electoral process, Mr. Flinterman said the Committee had recommended in 2007 universal suffrage.  However, no year was mentioned for this goal.  Would it be possible for the Government to outline its concept for universal suffrage in relation to article 25?  There were deep concerns about the delays to attaining universal suffrage so he was pleased to hear that the Government was committed to obtaining this by 2017 and not 2020.

An Expert took note of the ordinances regarding racial and gender discrimination in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  Regarding racial discrimination, he said immigration law denied the right of permanent residency for domestic workers even after they had lived in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China for seven years.  The Government seemed to not want to integrate Chinese immigrants from mainland China.  Had the Hong Kong Government taken any steps to address these issues? 

Regarding sexual orientation, an Expert said the Committee was pleased by the strong wording to eliminate discrimination.  But when the discrimination happened in the private sphere the ordinance did not apply. 

Concerning language, less than one per cent of graduates in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China belonged to ethnic minorities.  Chinese was the dominant language.  Would this be addressed?

Although there was a duty lawyer scheme, ethnic minorities were often persuaded to give few details and the lawyers often told them to drop their charges.  Did the Government plan to address these areas of concern?

Another Expert asked about the political participation of women.  Less than 20 percent of candidates in legislative elections in 2007 and 2008 were women.  Maybe the Government should ask itself why this had happened. 

An independent body had been recommended by the Committee to investigate torture claims.  However, the body’s recommendations were not binding and if the victim did not make the complaint personally, the case would not be investigated.  There were reports of excessive use of force by police like spraying people in the face with pepper spray or unjustified strip searches of detainees.  And yet the Government said there were no claims of torture since 2005.  Was the definition of torture too narrow?

An Expert asked about protection against torture for those being removed from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  He said the Covenant also required protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  Given the unusual position of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China as a region which was part of a country not yet party to the Covenant, how would it respond to these cases?

Another Expert asked about domestic violence statistics.  Did these statistics include ethnic minorities, women with disabilities, migrant workers and those with sexual orientation differences?  She also asked if women and girls were educated about domestic violence.

Regarding those detained in psychiatric institutions, how many institutions of this sort were there?  Were there only 800 patients in these institutions as had been stated by the Government?

Another Expert asked the delegation about deaths in prison.  There were 101 cases of death with 73 by natural causes and the rest either accidents or suicide.  Seventy-three seemed a high number for natural causes of death.  What were the reasons for these deaths?

In terms of torture or harsh treatment, the Committee was told that the crime of torture was only a crime if it was inflicted with intent.  But what did that mean?  Was there confusion on the part of the delegation between what was intentional and the aspect of proportion?  If no complaints of torture were registered between 2005 and 2012, it would seem people were dissuaded from lodging complaints.

What happened to people in preventive detention and how long could they be held in detention?

An Expert asked about human trafficking in Hong Kong.  He had heard there was practically no trafficking of persons.  However, 12 persons were identified last year who were victims of trafficking. 

Response by the Delegation

In response to these questions and comments and others, the delegation said specific statistics would be provided at a later time in response to some of the questions.

In terms of universal suffrage, a green paper published in 2006 for electing the Chief Executive and Legislative Council said consideration should be given to meet the actual situation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, facilitate the development of the capitalist economy, meet the interests of different sectors of society, and gradual and orderly progress.  The Government had stated it would start comprehensive consultations on the election methods of the Chief Executive in 2017 and the Legislative Council in 2016, and would initiate constitutional procedures at an appropriate juncture. 

Regarding a question on the interpretation of law, the delegation pointed out that Hong Kong was constitutionally directly under China.  As to the rule of law and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the power and interpretation of the Basic Law was vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

On the proposal of a human rights commission in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, a delegate said what mattered was how the Government safeguarded human rights in law.  The ordinances were buttressed by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. 

Concerning torture claimants, if a deportee could establish that he would face torture or cruel or degrading treatment once sent back to another country, the court ruled that this would constitute grounds for stopping the deportation.  High thresholds of proof needed to be passed in court in order to block removal or deportation actions. 

With regards to female participation in advisory or board committees, the target of 33 per cent had been surpassed and women in civil service went from 33.7 per cent in 2006 to 35.7 per cent currently; 47 per cent of the Permanent Secretaries, the most senior echelon of the civil servants, were women. 

Regarding reports of torture or ill treatment, the delegation said the force used by police must be reasonable in the circumstances.  The police had clear guidelines and training for officers which provided that only the minimum force necessary to achieve the purpose might be used and the force used must be reasonable in the circumstances.  The principles governing the use of force by the police were only the minimum force reasonable necessary to achieve a lawful purpose may be used and once that purpose had been achieved, the use of force would cease; when circumstances permitted, police officers should give warning of the intention to use force and of the nature and degree of force that they intend to use; and persons shall be given every opportunity, whenever practicable, to obey police orders before force was used.

The claim that some lawyers might encourage ethnic minorities to plead guilty was unfounded, said the delegation.  This should not happen due to lawyers’ professional code of conduct.

The delegation then turned to the question of language.  Census enumerators in the last population census were equipped to deal with ethnic groups in 11 different languages.  Posters and advertisements were placed in ethnic newspapers.  These measures were introduced so that ethnic minorities would not be brushed aside during the population census.

Regarding legal aid and interpretation services for ethnic minorities, the Legal Aid Department had published leaflets on its services in 10 different languages.  The leaflets in various languages could be downloaded from the Department’s legal aid website.

Questions by the Experts

Regarding constitutional development, an Expert was still puzzled by a reservation on universal suffrage.  The Chairman asked for clarification about the timing of the elections involving universal suffrage.

Responses by the Delegation

District Council elections were already conducted under a 1 person/1 vote arrangement.  For the Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections, 2017 was the target for electing the Chief Executive by universal suffrage, and 2020 would be the target for electing all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.

Answers to the List of Questions Previously Submitted by the Committee

Regarding legal issues, the delegation addressed the reservation under article 25 (b) concerning universal suffrage.  From the Government’s perspective the reservation allowed for constitutional development towards universal suffrage in a gradual and orderly manner, consistent with the relevant provisions in the Basic Law.  If this reservation was removed before there was a system of universal suffrage that was consistent with article 25 (b), legal challenges could be brought against efforts towards this goal. 

Regarding foreign domestic helpers, their stay was subject to certain conditions, such as having to live in the household employing them.  There was an ongoing court case brought by a helper who had been in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China for more than seven years, arguing the person should be allowed to establish permanent residency.  A judgement would be handed down in about a month’s time.

In terms of treason and sedition, the Committee had called for a review of the definition of these offences.  In light of article 23 of the Basic Law and at the suggestions of the Committee, the definition of these offences would be reviewed.

The Social Welfare Department had set up a central information system to monitor the trends of domestic and sexual violence and these figures included ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, sex workers and women with disabilities.  Social workers were trained to deal with these groups.  A publicity programme was launched on a yearly basis to combat domestic violence.  When victims reported a dispute to the police, these reports would be counted every single time, whereas the Social Welfare Department would only count a complaint from the same family once.  This would account for the gap in statistics.

Regarding strip searches, a delegate rejected the claim that this was a common practice.  The issue was examined in 2007 and agreement was reached on why and how strip searches should be carried out.  The police force had clear guidelines on these searches and usually these searches involved drug cases.  All searches would be approved by duty officers of a higher rank and searches would be carried out by same-sex officers.  Regular statistics on body searches were provided to the Sub Committee of Legislative Council on Police Handling of Sex Workers and Searches of Detainees.

On the subject of deaths in prisons, there were 101 cases between 2005 and 2010.  Most took place in high security or psychiatric prisons where prisoners had received life or indefinite sentences.  Heat stroke and head injuries by accident were found to be causes in some of the cases.  In the past few years there were 26 cases of early release of sick persons from jail. 

From 2010 to 2012 the Immigration Department received 136 claims of torture from Sri Lanka.  Thirty-seven cases were rejected.  Cases were considered individually.  If there were substantial risks of torture in the home country, the claimant would not be removed there.

Regarding human trafficking, from 2006-2011, 23 people were convicted.  A legal and comprehensive framework dealt with wide ranging offences related to trafficking in human persons and there were liaisons between non-governmental organizations, Interpol and departments within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China to combat these crimes.  Relating to child pornography, any sign of child sex tourism would be immediately escalated to the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau in the Police for investigation.  Similar efforts were underway to protect foreign domestic workers.

Public education programmes would be increased to eliminate discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. 

There were two mental hospitals and three psychiatric observation units within hospitals.  In terms of complaints, hospitals had a two-tier system for dealing with cases.  The second tier allowed for appeals. 

Questions by the Experts

Concern was expressed about the judicial independence of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

Another question concerned whether the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China allowed for the attainment of temporary protection of asylum seekers in a mass influx situation.

Relating to human trafficking, an Expert said he was confused by the statement that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was not a source of or traffic point of trafficking and yet it was undertaking a wide range of activities to combat the problem.  Why was the Government opposed to the Palermo Protocol?  What was the definition of human trafficking in the criminal code?  Was it restricted to women and children?

The Expert asked about restrictions of freedom of expression with police imposing heavy restrictions on freedom of assembly.  He was pleased that the report said the police had made improvements in dealing with freedom of assembly.  What were these improvements?  Would the use of force and video recording of demonstrations also be re-examined and improved?

Regarding children who committed suicide, what were the findings of a panel started in 2008 to review child fatality? What was being done to stop children from committing suicide?  With corporal punishment of children, the Expert said he was pleased that the Government was providing remedial services such as public education and counselling.  However, what were the practices under the law protecting children in this regard?  What steps would be taken to deal with the lack of legal prohibition of corporal punishment of children in the home?

An Expert asked about foreign domestic helpers and the problem of the live-in requirement, which made them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse and economic exploitation.  In practical terms, it would appear these workers were prevented from making complaints because they risked being sent back home.  Why could they not be given more freedom and better protection?

Concerning the Falun Gong movement, it was treated as a lawful organization in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  However, the practitioners were not popular in some sectors of society and there were allegations that the police used more restrictions on gatherings organized by this group.  It was also suggested that they faced discrimination in trying to rent public places for meetings and also that police did not protect them on an equal basis. 

Clarification was asked regarding a mental health ordinance disallowing the right to vote for those regarded as being incapable of managing or administering their property or affairs.

What further steps would the Government take to look at the definitions of sedition and treason?  The legislation on these offences seemed currently vaguely worded.  What were the details on anyone convicted of these offences?

Regarding video-taping practices by police of public demonstrations, was there a monitoring mechanism so that the rights to privacy could be protected? 

A question was raised about press censorship and the Government’s funding of public radio and television. 

Another Expert said he was pleased with the level of constructive dialogue between the delegation and Committee.  He asked about the political participation of ethnic minorities.  What was their level of proportional representation in legislative and district councils?  What actions would be taken to improve their representation?  After the 1997 handover, proficiency in Chinese and English was made mandatory for a position in public office.  Many ethnic minorities could not read or write Chinese effectively and so that had led to their invisibility in the social arena.  He said the language proficiency requirements should be reviewed to make sure they were really necessary for a job in the public service. 

He also asked about 15,000 ethnic minority students attending designated schools where their learning opportunities were limited due to their poor Chinese proficiency. This limited their access to higher education.  How did the Government intend to address the separation of ethnic minorities and Chinese in schools?

Regarding the “one country, two systems” model, legislative autonomy was granted for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  But regarding the right of asylum, was the law governed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China or by the People’s Republic of China?

Responses by the Delegation

In the delegation’s view, it was unlikely that any interpretation of chapter three of the Basic Law would infringe on the basic rights and freedoms of people of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

In the past 50 years, there had not been one prosecution under the offences of sedition and treason.

Regarding protection of asylum seekers, the delegation said the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol had never been applied to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  He said that was because the small and economically strong region was vulnerable to immigration abuses. 

In terms of human trafficking, there was a solid legal framework to protect people which went beyond the protection of only women and children.

Police respected the right to peaceful assembly but balances had to be considered between the right to demonstrate, ensuring public safety and ensuring the safety of visiting dignitaries.

Police had taken steps to facilitate the work of journalists and the media based on the principles of mutual respect and understanding.  Only designated officers were allowed to handle videotapes of public gatherings.

A review examined the deaths of children in 2006 and 2007.  The panel published a final report in 2011, confirming the review mechanism.  In May 2011, 20 professionals were appointed to review child deaths occurring from 2008 and the group would share its results in the future.

The Social Welfare Department annually launched a programme to strengthen the family, promote family functioning and prevent family breakdown with a focus on stress management for parents and parenting courses.  Eleven family service units had been set up across the territory to protect and counsel the victims and family members in cases of abuse.  Specific legislation was not provided to restrict corporal punishment, but neither did any exist in such countries as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Foreign domestic helpers were required to live in the homes of their employers because it was part of the established labour policies.  The Government would not tolerate any abuse of these workers and convicted employers were given such punishments as fines or imprisonment.  The Government maintained ties with foreign consulates to help prevent the abuse of these workers.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China was a free and open society under the “one country, two systems” model.  In article 27 of the Basic Law, all people including Falun Gong practitioners enjoyed the right to gather peacefully.  There was no policy of restricting Falun Gong practitioners with respect to immigration matters or the right to hold gatherings.

A person was not disqualified from voting due to a disability except those found by the court to be incapable by reason of mental incapacity of managing their property and affairs, in which case two medical certificates were required for that purpose.

Regarding the delay of granting domestic free television licenses, the delegation did not accept there had been an undue delay.  The Chief Executive in the Executive Council had to analyze the variety and quality of the proposed programmes and it was committed to having a decision as soon as possible.  Regarding Radio Television Hong Kong, which was a public service broadcaster, it enjoyed editorial independence and this was guaranteed in its charter.

Figures were not available for the participation of ethnic minorities in Government employment; however, race was not a relevant consideration for the suitability of a candidate.

Regarding schooling for ethnic minorities, this was a difficult subject in striking a balance
Among the diverse needs of ethnic minority students.  It was the choce of the ethnic minority parents to put their children in a mainstream school or a school with specific school-based measures to support ethnic minority students, including an adapted school-based Chinese Language curriculum, which were called “designated school”.  In other words, these designated schools were not by design.  The Chief Executive had announced further measures to enhance support for ethnic minority students, including exploring an incentive grant scheme to enhance the professional competencies of teachers, setting appropriate learning targets for students’ acquisition of the Chinese language and refining the summer-bridging programme for non-Chinese students to better support their Chinese learning and enhance their Chinese proficiency through parent-school cooperation.  Much more work needed to be done and the Government would take into account views of non-governmental organizations to this end.

Questions by the Experts

An Expert noted that religious communities could found schools from a legislative point of view.  What religions were taught in these schools?

Responses by the Delegation

Various religions included Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Christianity.  Figures were unavailable for how many schools had been set up to teach these religions.

Concluding Remarks

NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for its focussed and detailed responses and for its seriousness.  It was clear that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China had a high degree of freedom as well as respect for the rule of law.  He said it was not unusual for there to be some nervousness in cases of small populations close to large populations - especially when the large population did not have the same international commitments.  So when public orders were taken to control public protests, it could be troubling to people inside and outside the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  He added that it did not mean there was not a high degree of freedom but that people may not feel confident of maintaining that freedom.  He was reassured by the seriousness that the authorities took towards the issue of asylum seekers and that it would be a violation of the Covenant to expose someone to torture.  The physical integrity of children must be guaranteed under the Covenant.  The universal suffrage issue continued to be a problem but he was reassured by the delegation’s commitment to universal suffrage for the Chief Executive elections by 2017 and for the Legislative Council elections by 2020.  It had been a very constructive dialogue.

CHANG KING-YIU, the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, said it had been a pleasure to attend the meeting and have the opportunity to review the progress made.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China had made improvements in racial discrimination and had improved its torture complaint screening mechanism.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China recognized the importance of protecting different groups in society and would continue to combat discrimination.  She looked forward to a meaningful relationship with the Committee and its suggestions.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CT13/004E