HONG KONG: UN rights concerns greeted with scorn
UN Human Rights Committee's issues recommendations on press freedom after two-day hearing
South China Morning Post
Sunday, April 2, 2006
By Niki Law
The government last night issued an angry rebuttal to a set of recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee following a two-day hearing on Hong Kong.
In a long statement, the Home Affairs Bureau brushed aside concerns over the lack of universal suffrage, transparency of investigations of police misconduct and fears for media freedom.
"It remains a fact that unlike international laws, the recommendations made by the United Nations' treaty monitoring bodies are of an exhortatory nature rather than legally binding," said a spokesman for the department.
"We implement... recommendations, either wholly or in part, where they are feasible, practicable, affordable and in line with local circumstances."
The response followed an ultimatum issued by the UN committee early yesterday calling for Hong Kong to make progress on issues it highlighted within one year.
The committee said it was not satisfied with electoral arrangements and said "all necessary measures should be taken whereby the Legislative Council is elected by universal and equal suffrage".
Another recommendation -- believed to be focusing on the future of RTHK -- told Hong Kong "to take vigorous measures to prevent and prosecute harassment of media personnel to ensure that the media can operate independently and free from government intervention".
Concern over the lack of transparency on investigations of police misconduct and Hong Kong's responsibility towards families seeking right of abode were also singled out.
"In accordance with rule 71, paragraph 5, of the committee's rules of procedure, the HKSAR should submit within one year information on the follow-up given to the committee's recommendations," the report said.
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the unusual "within one year" request reflected how angry the UN was with Hong Kong.
"Usually the UN would not require them to submit anything until 2010 -- [in time for Hong Kong's next periodic report] -- but now they are demanding information by next year," he said. "The government has really ticked off the UN. It can choose to ignore the UN but that's not what it has been doing. It has chosen to play the game, so it's only fair it follows the rules."
Mr Law said the anger could be explained by the committee already ruling in 1995 that electoral arrangements breached Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But more than a decade later the Hong Kong government remained adamant that the rule did not apply to Hong Kong.
"Not only did they not follow the recommendations last time, they decided to be belligerent and pick a fight during the hearing this year," said Mr Law. "The UN is angry and is sending out a warning not only to Hong Kong, but to the mainland government this time."
The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said the government must listen to the recommendations.
Date Posted: 4/2/2006