Local Human Rights Issues

Human Rights Issues -- December 1999

Apple Daily allegedly bribes the police personnel (December 1, 1999)

Suspected exerting abusive police power on Peng Chau "siege" (December 2, 1999) (Article 9)

Abolition of Urban Council and Regional Council (December 3, 1999)

Issue of Right of Abode put in the Court of Final Appeal (December 3, 1999) (Article 23, Article 24)

The Dissolution of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (December 8, 1999)

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

Judgement of the Case of Desecration of National and SAR Flag by the Final Appeal Court (16 December, 1999) (Article 19)

Import mainland talent to hit job standard (December 17, 1999)(Article 26)

Flag Case Activist Arrested (December, 20 1999) (Article 19)

Stronger rules for officials suggested by ICAC (December 22, 1999) (General)

Village polls' rights of the non-indigenous villagers (December 22,1999) (Article 25)

Buddhists urged not to encourage Falun Gong in SAR (December 23, 1999) (Article 22, Article 26)

Sharply decrease in confidence of press freedom (December 23, 1999) (Article 19)

Buyers under unknown on piling problems (December 23, 1999) (General)

Judge rejects judicial review for councils (December 24, 1999) (Article 14)

Increase complaints against police officers (December 24, 1999) (Article 9)

Born in Hong Kong guarantees right: judge (December 25,1999)(Article 23, Article 24)

Six-year Mainland term for SAR Man (December 27 1999) (Article 9, 10)

Severe Jail Terms a Warning to Falun Gong in SAR (December 28 1999) (Article 22, Article 26)

 


Apple Daily allegedly bribes the police personnel (December 1, 1999)

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had arrested eight Apple Daily reporters and five police personnel for allegedly leaking police information for bribes. On 30 November night the ICAC raided the headquarters of Apple Daily to seize the documents, reporters' notebooks and computer files by two search warrants. However, the Apple Daily claimed that these two warrants were invalid and did not authorize the seizure of the documents. All items have been sealed under a court order pending the outcome of the newspaper's challenge to the warrants.

Chief Judge Chan's granting of the interim injunction followed on the heels of a decision made by Court of First Instance Justice Thomas Gall shortly before the court closed yesterday. The lower court judge refused an application by Apple Daily that he declared the ICAC officers unlawfully seized documents from the company's premises on Monday.

Suspected exerting abusive police power on Peng Chau "siege" (December 2, 1999) (Article 9)

On December 2, two Pang Chau teenagers, Kan Kwok-hung, 27 and Samson Kan Kwok-shing, 26 jointly ran into the police station in order to argue with police to stop bullying the three boys, who were suspected to be involved into the criminal destroy case. The Kan's brothers were arrested by the police and were charged of assaulting police and misbehavior in public place. Their arrested triggered a brief "siege" of the police station on the Island by about 100 residents. The brothers' parents claimed that they clearly saw the sons being allegedly assaulted. According to SCMP dated December 2, Mr. Kan, the children's brother, claimed said "My sons were lying on the floor when they were kicked on the jaw by the police." Moreover, Peng Chau Rural Affairs Committee vice-president Wong Hoi-yue said that he saw both brothers with leg injuries at the police officer.

However, two brothers were accused of assaulting police officers inside Peng Chau police station. The prosecutor claimed that the defendants arrived at the station and began to act in a disorderly manner by damaging distilled water and assaulted some police officers inside the charge office. Both defendants were released on bail of $10,000 but are subject to curfew order between 11 am to 6 p.m.

Abolition of Urban Council and Regional Council (December 3, 1999)

A Bill of abolishing the two municipal councils was passed in December 2, 1999. At first, the DAB had said that it would oppose the abolition plan. However, in the second reading, the party's chairman changed its idea and support and said that his party would support the Bill. In a crucial voting moment, Mr. Wong absented and it resulted that the amendments passing through 31 to 27. The Democratic party commented that the DAB had bowed to the Government pressure in allowing Mr. Wong to leave the chamber and the vice-chairman of Democratic Party Mr. Albert HO Chun-yan said that it was not a coincidence. It was doubtful that the abolition of the municipal councils would weaken the political participation of the civil citizens.

Issue of Right of Abode put in the Court of Final Appeal (December 3, 1999) (Article 23, Article 24)

On December 3, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that Beijing had the ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law and hence its is lawful for the National of People Congress Standing Committee to re-interpret abode laws. Its power was originated from Article 67 (4) of the Chinese constitution and contained in the Article 158 (1) of the Basic Law. According to South China Morning Post dated on December 3, Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said the judges agreed power held by the Standing Committee was unrestricted. As a result, it restored a government scheme requiring migrants claiming the right of abode to apply on the mainland for certificates of entitlement and to be subject to a quota system for entry into Hong Kong. An exit approval from the mainland authorities is required. Moreover, the ruling denied the right of abode to migrants who were born before their parents became permanent residents. In addition, only people who had declared their right of abode before January 29, 1999 would receive investigation for application and the government claimed that the population was around 3,500 to 4,000 and it is not duty-bound to consider applications on the basis of humanitarian grounds. The effect of re-interpretation is backdated to July 1, 1997.

Although the Government welcomed to the judgement, it aroused a hot debate in the society. Claimants still insisted that the Standing Committee had no power to make the interpretation.

The Dissolution of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (December 8, 1999)

The Sino-British Joint Liaison Group would dissolute on December 31, 1999 after working for 14 years. It was formed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration since November 1985 and initiated the first meeting in London. It mainly worked as a mediator and liaison group between both countries to ensure that the handover of Hong Kong was successful and stable. That group was also a channel to express opinion on the development of civil and political rights in Hong Kong.

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

A Hong Kong SAR resident, Mr. 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. However, the Secretary for Security commented that the deportation of a suspected member was legal. She explained that it was because Mr. Wu was defined as a Chinese citizen under mainland law, the authority sent him back to the mainland, as China was regarded as his "place of origin". She stressed that the deportation would not be used as a form of extradition but it showed the highly degree of cooperation of combating crimes between Thai and Chinese authorities. Moreover, taking deportation or not uis a decision made by foreign government, the SAR government could not interfere in it. She also said Mr. Wu agreed to be sent back to China.,

On the contrary, the legislator claimed that Mr. Wu should be sent back to Hong Kong first and then transferred to the mainland under the principle of "One country, Two systems" in the Basic Law. Furthermore, in a column at Mingpao News, legislator Margaret Ng Hoi-yee commented that deportation was totally different from extradition by citing a law case in 1996. She said that the Secretary for Security mixed up the concepts of deportation and extradition. Concerning that case, Mr. Wu was illegally extradited. Moreover, even though it was a case of deportation, under international law, deportation meant that he should be sent to the specified country/region, where he stayed before he entered Thailand, i.e. Hong Kong.

Judgement of the Case of Desecration of National and SAR Flag by the Final Appeal Court (16 December, 1999) (Article 19)

Two HK citizens, Mr. Ng Kung-siu, 25 and Mr. Lee Kin-yun, 19, were convicted of desecrating the national and SAR flags during a demonstration in May 1998. The Court of Appeal overturned their convictions in March 1999. However, the Government was dissatisfied with the appeal court and put the case in the Court of Final Appeal. On 15 December 1999, the Final Appeal Court declared that it was a crime to desecrate the national or regional flags.

According to South China Morning Post dated on December 16, Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang stated that the legislation, which carries a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment, imposed a permissible restriction on the freedom of expression. He emphasized that the symbolic role-played by the flags in ensuring implementation of the "one country, two systems" concept and maintaining national unity since the handover. "Protection of the national flag and the regional flag from desecration, having regard to their unique symbolism, will play an important part in the attainment of these goals. Criminalization of flag desecration is a justifiable restriction on the guaranteed right to the freedom of expression."

The flag-case activist Ng Kung-siu criticized that "the verdict has shown that our freedom of expression has rolled back since the handover." In addition, professor Mr. Raymond Wacks from the University of Hong Kong said the court had been driven to its decision by the constitutional realities it faced.

The Director of Society for Community Organization's Mr. Ho Hei-wah warned that the ruling could hamper freedom of speech. "The CFA verdict has given a very clear direction to the people of Hong Kong regarding the way they should respect the national and SAR flags. But defacing a flag is a form of expression of ideas." He said.

Import mainland talent to hit job standard (December 17, 1999)(Article 26)

The admission of Talent Scheme, which began on December 17, allowed 2000 talented people from the mainland and overseas to work and to stay in Hong Kong. According to the Immigration Department, the applicants should first have a job with a Hong Kong company and the company submitted an application. The talented people should at least obtain a doctorate degree on certain specialty. However, such migration policy provides preference to the talented and seems to discriminate against people who are less talented.

Flag Case Activist Arrested (December, 20 1999) (Article 19)

An activist and member of the April 5th Action Group, Mr. Lee Kin-yun, who involved in a court case for burning the national flag in Hong Kong was arrested in Macau yesterday for allegedly conspiring to burn the Portuguese flag. Mr. Antonio Lou, a member of the Chinese Liberal Party who was arrested at the same time. Lee was detained for four hours at the Public Security Police Headquarter. Lee claimed that he had been under police surveillance for a week and his phone was tapped. Jeremy Lei Man-chao, executive committee member of the Union for Democracy Development in Macau, stated the police action was "a very serious infringement of human rights."

Stronger rules for officials suggested by ICAC (December 22, 1999) (General)

The Chairman of four advisory committees to the ICAC announced the figure, which showed a 61% jump with 300 civil servants facing punishment in 1999 compared with 186 last year. It called for tougher anti-corruption measures within government departments and recommended for disciplinary action. Police topped the ICAC-recommended list with over a hundred officers and Housing department followed. Moreover, there were 55 court cases involving last year and six common problems could be found: a lack of alertness about accepting advantages, abuse of public office, perverting the course of justice, heavy indebtedness and accepting unauthorized loans and making false overtime claims, breach of rules and order. However, the Civil Service Bureau played down the figures and said the service was "clean and honest".

Village polls' rights of the non-indigenous villagers (December 22,1999) (Article 25)

The non-indigenous villagers of Po Toi O Village to cry for their voting rights and put the case for judicial review on March, 1999. The court ruled that they had such rights as the traditional election method exploited their rights of political participation. However, the Home Affairs Department and Hang Hau Rural Committee dissatisfied towards the ruling and appealed it in High Court.

Mr. Daniel Fung, Senior Counsel, for the Department of Justice, had told the court the rules for the elections were devised by the villagers, and that the government's role was to decide whether to approve the result. The district office did not involve in the election and the election result was declared unlawful because voters were excluded by sexual discrimination. He encouraged that judges not to interfere with the village elections and left it to the Government gradually introduced fairer procedures.

However, Mr. Justice Simon Mayo said that it would not be helpful if the government only made objections after the election was completed. According to South China Morning Post dated on December 22, Chief Judge Patrick Chan Siu-oi said, "the villagers at least had the impression that the district office was very much in it."

Besides, Mr. Dykes, for non-indigenous villagers, seeked to uphold two court rulings on March that declared election procedures unlawful because of sex discrimination and the failure to allow non-indigenous villagers to take part. He argued that the indigenous villagers could not be regarded as an ethnic minority as many of them lived in the city. Besides, Mr. Michael Lunn SC, for the Equal Opportunities Commission, argued that rules for the elections breached sex discrimination laws. The ruling has not announced yet.

Buddhists urged not to encourage Falun Gong in SAR (December 23, 1999) (Article 22, Article 26)

Two core members of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, director Au Kit-ming and vice-chairman Lai Sze-neun, issued separated strongly worded statements warning against the danger posed to society by "cults". One even alleged that the SAR Government was conniving the group of Falun Gong in the name of religious freedom. Mr. Au did not direct the name of the sect and claimed that the activities were becoming more prevalent in Hong Kong and unhealthy for society.

The Chief Executive of the Buddhist Association claimed that it was just a personal comment but claimed that they had received many consultations on clarifying between Buddhist and Falun Gong. The Association worried that people would have confusion. However, it was speculated that it had a strong political implication, as one of the members of the Association, Sik Chi-wai, was the local deputy of NPC.

Sharply decrease in confidence of press freedom (December 23, 1999) (Article 19)

The survey conducted by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute interviewed more than 1,000 people found that public confidence in press freedom was down to14.5%. It decreased from 107.7 in January to 92.1 in December. It showed that the press freedom would be harmed by the proposal of establishing statutory Press Council.

Buyers under unknown on piling problems (December 23, 1999) (General)

Potential buyers of new Home Ownership Scheme units were not allowed to get more information before buying flats because Housing Department refused to disclose the information of Tin Fu Court in Tin Shui Wai, in which defective pilings were found in these buildings. The assistant director of the Housing Department said that all building were safe and fault had been picked up during a routine inspection. However, the consumers were not protected during the purchasing procedures because details were not fully released. After one day, the officials released details on settlement in all public housing sites under construction. The Housing authority member Mr. Wong Kwun said that he believed such U-turn was to avoid adversely affecting sales of Tin Shui Wan units.

Judge rejects judicial review for councils (December 24, 1999) (Article 14)

A High Court judge, Mr. Justice Frank Stock, threw out a legal challenge to the scrapping of the municipal councils. He ruled that the Municipal Services (reorganization) Bill did not contravene the Basic Law or the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Also, there was a "fundamental flaw" in the argument of the applicants as neither council had an elected member.

Benjamin Yu SC, the government's barrister argued that the bill could not have taken correctly because the two provisional council members had been "appointed" by the Chief Executive after the handover. Besides, barrister Johannes Chan, for the applicants, said that the bill deprived the public of the right to take part into public affairs and urged the court to take into account the Beijing-established Preparatory Committee's opinions on terms of councils. But the judge said that the Committee did no more than make proposals to the Chief Executive in establishing those organizations and he would rule by common law approach.

Increase complaints against police officers (December 24, 1999) (Article 9)

Complaints against police officers rose about 8% from 251 in October to 272 last month. The number of alleged assaults by police officers increased from 71 cases in October to 87 in November. Moreover, a total of 2845 complaints were filed for the first 11 months, while it was just 2697 for the same period last year. The situation of police brutality became worse.

Born in Hong Kong guarantees right: judge (December 25,1999)(Article 23, Article 24)

Justice Frank Stock, a High Court judge, ruled yesterday that all Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong have unconditional right of abode in accordance with Article 24(2)(1) of the Basic Law, which stated that the permanent residents of the HKSAR shall be Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong. Moreover, the immigration provision mandating that one of the parents be settled in the SAR before they could acquire the status was unconstitutional. The judge claimed that a approved report prepared by a Central Government Mandatory Committee lending credence to the immigration law requirement did not have binding effect on Hong Kong's courts.

The government argued that mere birth on the SAR was not enough for claiming abode right and the claimant should have at least one of the parents settled in the SAR. However, the judge claimed that he did not find the re-interpretation made by NPCSC on Article 24 related to Article 24(2)(1). Also, the judge ruled that the intention of the drafters of Basic Law was not preventing Chinese people whom born in Hong Kong from obtaining the right of abode.

However, National People Congress (NPC) local deputy Mr. Ma Lik questioned the ruling and suggested the Chief Executive to request another re-interpretation from the NPCSC. He argued that the "Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong" was referring to those born to citizens, who resided in Hong Kong legally, in accordance with the resolution endorsed by the Preparatory Committee in 1996.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party chairman and barrister Mr. Martin Lee Chu-ming welcomed the judge and said that it was correct. Besides, the pro-Beijing DAB vice chairman, Mr. Ip Kwok-him urged the government to appeal to prevent a mass influx of pregnant mainlanders. At that moment, the government decided to appeal.

Six-year Mainland term for SAR Man (December 27 1999) (Article 9, 10)

A Hong Kong businessman, Hermann Li Hiu-ming had been sentenced to six years in a labor rehabilitation camp after being found guilty of embezzlement by a mainland court. Li and two of his firm's shareholders launched a joint venture with a plant in 1995 to produce hi-tech television parts. Li was accused by his mainland business partner of having embezzled from a state-run production plant in Jinhua, Zhejiang. This factory board was chaired by Jinhua's Vice-Mayor, Mr. Lu Fulu. However, Li stated the US$70000 was part of his reward in accordance with his contract. He was arrested on 17 November 1998. He was being detained as a debt hostage in the detention center and his family was asked to pay US$3.5 million for his release. Li's wife, Li Lai Yuk-ling said the trail was unfair because his lawyers were barred from accessing crucial evidence presented to the court. Li and his family decided to appeal to a higher court.

Severe Jail Terms a Warning to Falun Gong in SAR (December 28 1999) (Article 22, Article 26)

Hong Kong Falun Gong followers worried that the long jail terms handed down in Beijing on Sunday were a warning to them. Four mainland Falun Gong leaders were sentenced by Beijing Number 1 Intermediate People's Court on Sunday to between seven and 18 years' imprisonment. The pro-Chinese newspaper, Ta Kung Pao said SAR practitioners of the sect should "wake up". Earlier this month, Foreign Ministry Commissioner Mr. Ma Yuzhen said that Falun Gong must not use Hong Kong as a base for subversion, while Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said that the sect must not act against the interests of China or Hong Kong. Mr. Kan Hung-chung, a spokesman of Falun Gong in Hong Kong, said members would continue their normal activities within the law.

One Hong Kong biggest Buddhist group, Hong Kong Buddhist Association, condemned Falun Gong activities amid indications that Beijing may be quietly mobilizing its allies here to quell the sect. However, several human rights groups worried the long jail terms in Beijing were a warning to Falun Gong in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China and Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor feared that the government would very soon end its policy of tolerance towards local members of Falun Gong sect.


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