Local Human Rights Issues

Human Rights Issues -- November 1999

The age of criminal responsibility "should rise"(November 5, 1999) (Article 24)

Damning Rights verdict from UN (November 6, 99) (General)

The BN(O) holder detained in the mainland (November 15, 99) (Article 9, 13)

The Vietnamese illegal immigrants bullied local boys (November 26, 1999) (Article 7 & 10)

Teenagers' rights violated in solitary (November, 27 ,1999) (Article 9 & 10)

Visas do not ensure re-entry was permitted (November 27, 1999) (Article 13)

The first District Council Election in the HKSAR (November 28, 99) (Article 25)

Increase assault complaints of illegal immigrants (November 29, 1999) (Article 10)


The age of criminal responsibility "should rise"(November 5, 1999) (Article 24)

The Law Reform Commission suggested that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be raised from seven to ten. The Commission believed that the present limit under the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance was too low and too cruel to the youth. The age limit set by Hong Kong was among the lowest in the world.

Damning Rights verdict from UN (November 6, 99) (General)

The United Nations released a damning verdict on Hong Kong's post-handover human rights record, expressing concerns about judicial independence and civil liberties. The United Nations Human Rights Committee urged the SAR Government to reconsider the problem of scrapping the municipal councils and to review laws on phone tapping and freedom of association. The Committee was "seriously concerned" at the implications for judicial independence of the questions of reinterpretation of the Basic Laws in the matter of the right of abode.

The BN(O) holder detained in the mainland (November 15, 99) (Article 9, 13)

A Hong Kong SAR resident, Wu Man, who was abducted by five or six gunman in Bangkok on June 14 before being flown back to Public Security Bureau at Guangzhou where he had been detained for five months. He was the British National (Overseas) passport holder. Wu, 39, was wanted by mainland police for allegedly being involved in a kidnap plot in Hong Kong masterminded by "Big Spender" Cheung Tze-keung, who was executed in Guangzhou last year.

Mr. Wu sought help by sending a letter to the legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing. Ms Lau pointed out that the British Government should protect all British passport holders when they traveled with that passport. She had sent a letter to urge the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to take steps to secure the release of Mr. Wu. The British Consulate in Thailand received an apology from the Thailand Government due to the inappropriate action taken by Thailand authorities. The British Consulate admitted that there was a dilemma as the Chinese government did not recognize the British (Oversea) passports and thus treated Mr. Wu as a Chinese citizen.

However, the Chinese Government refuted that the procedure was appropriate as the detainee had committed crimes in the mainland. Moreover, there was a surrender of fugitive offenders' agreement between China and Thailand. On the contrary, there was no agreement of exchanging the fugitive offenders between Hong Kong and Thailand. Hong Kong had surrenders of fugitive offenders agreements with the following countries: The Netherlands, Canada, Australia, The Philippines and India, but not China. The spokesman of the Security Bureau said that it tried to approach both governments to collect more information.

The Vietnamese illegal immigrants bullied local boys (November 26, 1999) (Article 7 & 10)

Mr. Hau Chi-sum, the social worker, and the local boys of the boys' home were bullied and assaulted by four Vietnamese boys. These four Vietnamese boys, who were waiting for the court order, used an excuse that the toilet was not in service to tempt Mr. Hau to go into the toilet. When he came in, they closed the door and bullied them. Many local boys also complained that unconvicted Vietnamese boys had beaten them. Facing the problem, the social workers of the boys' home asked Legislators for help. They also condemned that keeping the unconvicted children and the convicted children together at boys' home was a violation of the United Nations International Children's Convention.

According to Article 10 2(b) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it was known that the accused persons shall be segregated from convicted persons and shall be subjected to separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted person. However, the four boys, who were accused, had to live with the boys (including the Vietnamese and local boys) who were convicted under care and probation order.

Teenagers' rights violated in solitary (November, 27 ,1999) (Article 9 & 10)

A 14-year-old boy was kept in solitary confinement for six days at boys' home and a magistrate ruled that the boy's human right was violated. The teenager had attempted to escape from O Pui Shan Boys' Home, Lai Chi Kok, and he was sent to the court and no punishment was offered to him. The magistrate stated that the boyneeded not answer and released him. It was known that the boy had been kept in the dormitory for six days, from August 6 to August 12, for being suspected ringleader of a late-night disturbance and attempted to escape from the home.

The magistrate condemned that it was a form of illegal imprisonment as it violated the Reformatory School Ordinance and the Bill of Rights Ordinances (BORO). Therefore, in law, the alleged crime of attempting to escape from legal custody did not does not really exist. The magistrate ruled that there was confusion in providing order in the boys' home as the home's superintendent said that the lower colleagues recommended the decision. The court claimed that the superintendent had half-baked knowledge on the well being of the accused.

Legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, who assisted the case, said keeping juvenile inmates in solitary confinement without records was common and he would pursue this matter in Legco. The Social Welfare Department admitted this fault and examined the existing practices and procedures in respect of segregation.

Visas do not ensure re-entry was permitted (November 27, 1999) (Article 13)

Mr. Gurung, a Nepalese businessman, was refused permission to re-enter Hong Kong when returning from a seven-day business trip to Nepal in November 1999. On 14 December 1999, the Director of Immigration issued a removal order against him, which he successfully challenged when the tribunal decided he had permission to say. However, the judge of the Court of First Instance, Mr. Justice Michael Hartmann, said non-permanent residents could be refused to re-entry the SAR after s/he left the territory. He sought to reassure expatriates yesterday after ruling that non-permanent residents lose their permission to remain in Hong Kong after they went abroad.

Mr. Justice Hartmann said that whenever a person resided in Hong Kong in terms of a permission to remain leaves the territory, his or her permission automatically expired. This was so even if the permission still had a period of time to run. When a person returned to Hong Kong and wished to resume residence, a person should seek a new permission from the immigration authorities and the authorities had discretionary power to decide whether grant the permission or not. In that case, the Director of Immigration was required to re-consider Mr. Gurung's admission.

The first District Council Election in the HKSAR (November 28, 99) (Article 25)

The district council election was held on 28 November 1999. 390 out of 798 candidates were elected for the 18 District Councils while 76 members won automatically. In addition, the government had enacted legislation to reintroduce 102 appointed seats in District Councils, which would replace the District Boards. In comparsion with the District Boards elections in 1995, which all members were fully elected by geographic constituencies, Hong Kong people's right to elect their representatives was furtherly infringed.

The candidates of each district were disturbed as the following:
Political Parties / No. of Candidates
Democratic Party (民主黨) / 172
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) (民建聯) / 176
Liberal Party (自由黨) / 33
Independent candidates with left-wing support / 90
Independent candidates who are supported by democratic party / 31
Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (民協) / 31
Hong Kong Progress Alliance(港進聯) / 50
Others / 315
Total / 798

According to the inaugural policy speech in 1997, the Chief Executive had stated that "Hong Kong should take a fresh look at the Municipal Councils and the District Boards." The existing Urban council and Regional council were forced to sign the amendment of the ordinances to abolish the two-council system. The government explained that the abolition of the councils could be more effective and efficient for public services and avoid wastage of resources. The Government officials found it "questionable whether there are still valid reasons for maintaining the three-tier system of government". The government claimed that after abolished the two councils, Urban Council and Regional Council, the power of the District Council would be increased. The district councilors would be invited to sit in the consultative committee and acted as advisors in the system.

However, the public did not agree to abolish the two councils. According to a survey conducted by the Social Science Research Center at the University of Hong Kong in 1998, it found that only 16.2% of those polled agreed with the abolition plan, while 60.7% were in favor of a merger of the two Councils. Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing commented that the government did not have proper public consultation. She doubted whether the people really supported to eliminate the councils when there was another option -- a merger of the two. Democrat Lee Wing-tat said that it was a backward step in democratic development. Fellow Democrat Li Wah-ming even speculated the underlying reason for abolition. In South China Morning Post on 28 November 1999, he said, "This is really a political decision. It is not only based on the improvement of urban services and a deliberate more to anti-democratize the political arena, a decision made by Mr. Tung and backed by the central government (Beijing) and the Communist party." Surprisingly, the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) maintained to oppose the proposal and it supported "one council, one department" plan.

Moreover, on the question of the power of the newly formed District Council, the candidates generally perceived negatively. In the study conducted by Oriental Daily News, nearly all respondents (candidates) did not trust the District Council could be empowered by the abolishment of the two councils. Therefore, the claim that the government would further allocate the power to the regions seemed to be invalid. In the report of Hong Kong Human Rights Commission, which was sent to the United Nations in 1999, it complained appointing system was unfair. It urged the Hong Kong SAR government to reform such a low representative election system and suggested to have equal and universal suffrage. The concluding observation provided by the United Nations Human Rights Committee also shared the same view. The Committee claimed that the abolition of the Municipal Councils would further diminish the opportunity of HKSAR residents to take part public affairs and suggested strengthening people's political participation.

The voting rate was only 38.82% (816,503 voters), which was a little more than that of the election of district committee in 1994. (~36.1%). The pro-Beijing camp and the appointed members gained more than half of the seats in District Council while the democratic members gained less than half. That implies that the democratic members had less influence and bargaining power in the Council.

Increase assault complaints of illegal immigrants (November 29, 1999) (Article 10)

More illegal immigrants, who were detained at Tai Ku Lan detention center, complained that they were being assaulted by the police during detention. Apart from seven illegal immigrants complained that they were assaulted on October 26, ten complaints were made in that center from October 1998 to 1999. The detention center had five cells and could keep up to 300 persons. Four cells were used to detain illegal immigrants who were waiting for sending back to the mainland. However, due to the lack of electronic surveillance system, the police planned to install cameras to prevent illegal immigrants used an excuse of being assaulted to prolong staying at Hong Kong. Moreover, it could avoid the police were being defamed.

In fact, seven complainants claimed that they were bullied and assaulted by four policemen during having a dispute on tidying up the bed. The complaints had been referred to CAPO and two policemen were accused of assault and the trial would be heard on December 8, 1999.


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