HK Authorities’ 13 Violations of Human Rights & Basic Law in 2018 (Chapman Chen from Local Press)
In 2018, the Hong Kong SAR Government, in collusion with Beijing, carried out a series of acts, which gravely undermined HK’s one country two systems and high degree of autonomy, and encroached upon Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms of speech, press, association, political participation, assembly, artistic expression, etc., as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the HK Basic Law, and the HK Bill of Rights Ordinance. E.g., in 2018, the HK authorities politically prosecuted dissidents and lawmakers, heavily sentenced them, and denied them legal aid; bad-mouthed Hong Kong Cantonese, the de facto official oral speech of Hongkongers, expelled a foreign journalist for chairing a talk with a pro-independence figure; enacted the co-location arrangement of the West Kowloon express rail link, which in effect moved the HK-CN border to the heart of HK; started a Greater Bay Area plan aiming at integrating HK into Guangdong, banned a pro-independence party; suppressed discussions about HK independence and self-determination; disqualified election candidates for their political opinions, barred overseas anti-CCP artists from entering HK to take part in local shows; and engaged in white-elephant projects. Moreover, Beijing claimed that every provision in the Chinese constitution is applicable to HK; and a State media eavesdropped an American scholar’s private meeting with a local linguist in HK.
1. Political Prosecution of Dissidents and Denial of Legal Aid
In connection with the 2016 Lunar New Year Mongkok Police-civilian clash (described by the authorities as a riot), Edward Leung, former convenor of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, received in June this year a jail term of six years. Many others in the same case received similar heavy sentences, e.g., 72-year-old Chan Wo-cheung, the oldest among them, 41 months’ imprisonment, Lo Kin-man, a 30-year-old photographer, 7 years’ imprisonment (for allegedly throwing plastic water bottles at the police from a distance). The localist democracy camp is immediate, real, and steadily growing, while the pan-democracy camp advocating a democratic China is procrastinative, surreal, and declining.
Regarding Leung’s sentencing, Lord Chris Pattern, last Governor of Hong Kong, said, “We attempted to reform the Public Order Ordinance in the 1990s and made a number of changes because it was clear that the vague definitions in the legislation are open to abuse and do not conform with United Nations human rights standards….. that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists.”
In June, former democratically elected, allegedly pro-independence, lawmakers, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, together with 3 of their assistants, received a sentence of 4 weeks’ imprisonment for taking part in an “illegal assembly” in the Legislative Council building while they were STILL legislative council members.
Fiona Bruce MP, the Chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said: “Edward’s sentencing … is only one of many examples of the HK government using the law to intimidate the pro-democracy movement and curtail freedom of expression.” (According to that Ordinance, anyone joining an “unlawful assembly” & committing “a breach of the peace” is guilty of “rioting”. An “unlawful assembly” is one in which 3 or more persons act in a disorderly….manner likely or intended to cause any reasonable person to fear there will be a breach of the peace.)
In a report on Hong Kong published in 1999, United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern:- “With regard to freedom of assembly, the committee is aware that there are very frequent public demonstrations in HKSAR … the committee is concerned that the Public Order Ordinance could be applied to restrict unduly enjoyment of the rights guaranteed in article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Baggio Leung, and certain convicted defendants of the Mongkok police-civilian clash, e.g., Edward Leung and the utterly impoverished Lo Kin-man, have been denied legal aid for appeal against their conviction. According to the UN Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, “Legal aid is an essential element of a fair, humane and efficient criminal justice system that is based on the rule of law. Legal aid is a foundation for the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to a fair trial, as defined in article 11, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
2. Attempt to Deprive Hongkongers of their Linguistic Rights
On 8 October, in a RTHK radio program, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung questioned whether Cantonese will be suitable as a teaching language in the city in the long-run and suggested that it may be a good idea for Hongkongers to start using more Putonghua in their daily lives. He went on to claim that no one in the world who learns Chinese does so in Cantonese except for the 7 million people in HK, and the trend clearly favors Putonghua. Kevin Yeung’s saying contravenes Article 2 of the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which states that “Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (hereinafter referred to as persons belonging to minorities) have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination”; Article 26 of The 1996 Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights adopted at the conclusion of the World Conference on Linguistic Rights (All language communities are entitled to an education which will enable their members to acquire a full command of their own language, including the different abilities relating to all the usual spheres of use); and The Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights developed by International PEN in 2011, which states that “Every linguistic community has the right for its language to be used as an official language in its territory”, and ” School instruction must contribute to the prestige of the language spoken by the linguistic community of the territory.”
3. Express Rail Link Moving the HK-CN Border Inward
The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link was officially launched in September. Its co-location arrangement, which allows Mainland laws to be applied in the West Kowloon terminus, contravenes Basic Law Article 18 (no national law should be enforced in Hong Kong, apart from those listed in Annex 3 — confined to those relating to defence and foreign affairs, as well as other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of special administrative regions) as well as Article 2 (The National People’s Congress authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to exercise a high degree of autonomy), plus Article 11, and Article 19. The joint checkpoint arrangement has practically moved the border from Lo Wu, New Territories, to the heart of Kowloon, HK.
4. Integration of HK into the Greater Bay Area
On August 15, HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam was included in a high-level coordinating mapping out strategies for integration of HK with 9 Guangdong cities into the Greater Bay Area. This integration plan apparently violates the One Country Two Systems constitutional principle of HK; Article 3 (2) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs); Article 2 of the Basic Law (The National People’s Congress authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to exercise a high degree of autonomy); Article 5 of the HK Basic Law (The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years). Moreover, Article 22 of the Basic Law states that the central government ministries should not intervene in the affairs of the SAR. However, if the central government coordinates the integration of the Greater Bay Area directly, it will inevitably have to make decisions on some long-term policies and development plans of Hong Kong.
5. Expelling Foreign Journalist
In August, Victor Mallet, Vice-chair of the HK Correspondents’ Club, chaired a talk with with Andy Chan, convenor of the HK Independence Party. Before that, the governments of China and Hong Kong had called for the cancellation of the talk, because the issue of independence supposedly crossed one of the “bottom lines” on national sovereignty. In October, Mallet was denied a working visa by the Hong Kong government. In this event, the HK authorities contravened Paragraph 3(5) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (Rights and freedoms, including … of the press… will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region); Article 19 (2) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Everyone shall have the… freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.); Article 27 of the Basic Law (Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication).
6. China Constitution Extending to HK
The legal chief of the Beijing liaison office in Hong Kong, Wang Zhenmin, said on14 July that every provision in the Chinese constitution is applicable to the SAR, except for areas specified in the Basic Law. In December 2018, Shen Chunyao, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, described China’s constitution as having a mother-son or higher-lower relationship with the Basic Law and claimed that its authority extended to Hong Kong. This kind of sayings apparently violates the One Country Two Systems constitutional principle of HK; Article 3 (2) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (The HKSAR will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs); Article 2 of the Basic Law (The National People’s Congress authorizes the HKSAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy); Article 5 of the HK Basic Law (The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the HKSAR, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years); and Article 22 of the Basic Law (the central government ministries should not intervene in the affairs of the SAR).
7. No Tolerance for Independence and Self-determination Discourse
On 14 October, HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam stressed in a radio program that advocacies of HK independence or self-determination or formation of confederation all violated the bottom line of One Country and would not be tolerated, that those who advocated HK independence and self-determination could not expect to become lawmakers. The first limb contravenes people’s freedom of speech or of opinion and expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Paragraph 3 (5) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration; Article 27 of the Basic Law; and Article 16 of HONG KONG BILL OF RIGHTS ORDINANCE, CAP. 383. The second limb contravenes Articles 2 & 25 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 26 of the Basic Law, and Articles 1 & 21 of The HK Bill of Rights Ordinance, which all guarantee the right of every citizen to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections without distinction of their political opinion
In March, at a seminar organised by the Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps,, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Law of HKU, Benny Tai, suggested that HK could consider becoming an independent state. In response to this, a Government spokesman stressed that any advocacy of “Hong Kong independence” runs against “One Country, Two Systems” and the Basic Law as well as the overall and long-term interest of society of Hong Kong. “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is shocked by the remarks made by a university teaching staff member that Hong Kong could consider becoming an independent state, and strongly condemns such remarks,” the Government spokesman said. The HK Government’s reaction to this matter has encroached upon HK academic freedom as enshrined in Paragraph 3(5) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration; Article 34 of the Basic Law (Hong Kong residents shall have freedom to engage in academic research); and freedom of opinion and expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
8. Denying Overseas Anti-CCP Artists Entry
In November, Hong Kong organizers, Hong Kong Free Press, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, of the debut Hong Kong exhibition by Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao, said they had to cancel the event due to “threats from Chinese authorities.” A persistent thorn in the side of leaders in Beijing, Badiucao’s work highlights themes including rights violations and abuse of power under Chinese Communist Party rule and he often satirizes President Xi Jinping. In December, Taiwanese heavy band Chthonic, led by pro-Taiwan-independence lawmaker Freddy Lim, invited by HK Canto-pop star Denise Ho to the On the Pulse of Music Festival in HK, was force to cancel to their show in HK because the visa application of Lim was rejected by the HK Immigration Department on the ground that Lim did not “possess a special skill, knowledge or experience of value. These acts on the part of the HK and China authorities have violated Article 34 of the Basic Law, which states that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom to engage in academic research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural activities.”
The 2013 UN report on the right to artistic expression and creation concludes that “All persons enjoy the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, which includes the right to freely experience and contribute to artistic expressions and creations, through individual or joint practice, to have access to and enjoy the arts, and to disseminate their expressions and creations.”
9. Banning a Peaceful Separatist Party
Secretary for Security John Lee on 24 September 2018 officially banned the party on national security grounds under the Societies Ordinance. Noting the separatist party had yet to resort to violence, Lee said he could not neglect its threats posed to public safety and order as the party had made it clear it would exhaust all means to its goals, including the option of using force. This banning act has violated the right and freedom of association of Hongkongers as enshrined in Paragraph 3 (5) of the Joint Declaration; Article 27 of the HK Basic Law; Article 20 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; and Article 18 of HONG KONG BILL OF RIGHTS ORDINANCE, CAP. 383.
10. Disqualification of Dissident Election Candidates
In December , Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a current Hong Kong lawmaker, was banned from running in a rural election by the HK authorities for failing to overtly oppose HK independence. 6 candidates, e.g., the allegedly pro-independence Edward Leung Tin-kei and Andy Chan Ho-tin, were similarly barred from standing in the 2016 Legco election for their political stance, and 3 candidates were barred from the March 2018 by-election, including Ventus Lau Wing-hong and Chan Kwok-keung for their alleged pro-independence stance, Agnes Chow Ting Chow for her self-determination advocacy. In October, Lau Siu-lai was barred from the Kowloon West by-election on the ground of her former pro-self-determination advocacy. All these apparently contravene Articles 2 & 25 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 26 of the Basic Law, and Articles 1 & 21 of The HK Bill of Rights Ordinance, which all guarantee the right of every citizen to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections without distinction of their political opinion.
11. Stalking of American Scholar
On 11 December, reporters of Wen Wei Po, a HK newspaper directly controlled by the Liaison Office (Beijing’s office in HK) spied on American scholar, Dr. Kevin Carrico from the Macquarie University, Australia, eavesdropped and stealthily photographed his private meeting in a Kowloon restaurant with Dr. Chapman Chen, a HK linguist. (The two, in reality, just chatted about HK culture and human rights situation in general.) After that, staff of Wen Weipao continued to tail Carrico’s meetings with certain allegedly “pro-independence” HK citizens. On 17 December, a long story of Kevin Carrico appeared on the front page of Wen Wei Po, labeling Carrico “an independence figure spreading independence messages in HK”. This kind of spying apparently violates Article 30 of the Basic Law:- “The freedom and privacy of communication of Hong Kong residents shall be protected by law. No department or individual may, on any grounds, infringe upon the freedom and privacy of communication of residents except that the relevant authorities may inspect communication in accordance with legal procedures to meet the needs of public security or of investigation into criminal offences.”
12. White-Elephant Projects Depleting HK Treasury
Lantau Tomorrow Vision, a development project in Hong Kong launched by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her 2018 policy address, includes the creation of a third core business district by constructing artificial islands with a total area of about 1,700 hectares through massive land reclamation near the eastern waters of Lantau Island. Albert Lai, an expert in carbon strategy and sustainability innovation, estimates the cost to be US$0.1 trillion. Hong Kong meteorologist cum former director of the Hong Kong observatory, Lam Chiu-ying is adamant that this project is over-expensive and dangerous to the physical safety of any inhabitants of the artificial islands thereby constructed. In October, the HK$72.5 billion (US$9.3 billion) Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge was opened to the public. The HK$84.4 billion (US$10.7 billion) high-speed rail link, as aforementioned, was officially launched in September. According to many experts, both the bridge and the express link are not cost-effective at all. All these white-elephant projects contravene Article 107 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that “the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall follow the principle of keeping the expenditure within the limits of revenues in drawing up its budget, and strive to achieve a fiscal balance, avoid deficits and keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product.”
Photo credit: hketotoronto.gov.hk/press-room/press-releases/