A Human Rights Defence of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central

Mattias Cheung | 16 August 2014 | Oxford Human Rights Hub

With the Hong Kong Government set on introducing an undemocratic electoral reform in the coming months, Professor Benny Tai has proposed to organise a peaceful assembly, ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace’. It has been condemned and denounced as an affront to the rule of law.

The background to this saga is the Hong Kong Government’s proposed electoral reforms. With the imprimatur of Beijing in 2007, the Government now plans to introduce universal suffrage for Chief Executive (head of government) elections, but candidates must be nominated by an unaccountable nominating committee. This carries the imminent risk that ‘undesirable’ candidates will be screened out, contrary to Article 26 of the Basic Law and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’).

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Human Rights Watch: No News Is Bad News in Hong Kong

4 August 2014 | Human Rights Watch

If Hong Kong is left with a press that only the Chinese government likes, everyone loses. The business community relies on the free flow of information to make function effectively, Hong Kong people are accustomed to news from a variety of perspectives, and Beijing itself will not be able to accurately ascertain local developments.  A few years ago, it seemed inconceivable that the vibrant Hong Kong media could be strong-armed into obedience. But it now seems disturbingly possible that a few years from now we might not even know an outlet like House News had ever existed. 

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Why Are The “Big Four” Opposed To Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations?

21 July 2014 | Mint Press News

WASHINGTON — Rights and watchdog groups are questioning both the logical and legal basis for a series of advertisements, published by the world’s four largest accountancy firms, expressing opposition to the recent pro-democracy demonstrations that took place in Hong Kong.

The firms include one, Deloitte, headquartered in the United States, as well as three European companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young (now known as EY) and KPMG. Of course, these are fully global entities, with collective revenues above $100 billion a year and together known simply as “the Big Four.”

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Human Rights Watch: China/Hong Kong: Make Report Reflect Democracy Demands

14 July 2014 | Human Rights Watch

“The chief executive’s report should reflect the desire for greater political rights so clearly articulated by people in Hong Kong in recent weeks,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “Failure to accurately reflect the views of Hong Kong’s people will make a mockery of this exercise, and risk further galvanizing public sentiment.”

“It’s in the interests of Hong Kong and Beijing governments to expand political rights in the territory,” Richardson said. “Curtailing rights is not only anachronistic, but also likely to increase tensions and alienation among the people of Hong Kong, who have waited patiently for years for the realization of the promise that ‘Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong.’”

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AI: HK mass arrests send ‘disturbing signal for future protests’

2 July 2014 | Deutsche Welle

Hong Kong police arrested over 500 protesters who staged a sit-in after a pro-democracy rally, described as the city’s largest in years. In a DW interview, AI’s Mabel Au slams the police action as hasty and unnecessary.

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Amnesty International: Stop pursuing charges against peaceful protesters

2 July 2014 | Amnesty International

Petition

Dear Secretary Yuen,

I’m writing to urge the Hong Kong government to drop all investigations and criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in conjunction with events on 1 and 2 July.

The twenty-five protesters, most of them students, under investigation for “illegal assembly”, “organizing and assisting in an illegal assembly” and “obstruction in a public place” and the five members of Civil Human Rights Front, who organized the 1 July march and are also under investigation, were only peacefully exercising their human rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

Hong Kong is bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. These rights are protected by Articles 19 and 21 of the ICCPR, respectively and also Article 27 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, sometimes referred to as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The Hong Kong police labelled the assembly as an “illegal assembly” as the organizers of the sit-in protest did not apply for “a letter of no objection” in accordance with Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance. However, the requirement to apply for “a letter of no objection” runs counter to the international human rights law, which does not require advance approval for holding a peaceful assembly.

I would like to remind you of the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee following its consideration of Hong Kong’s report to the Committee on its implementation of the ICCPR in 2013. The Committee raised concerns that ‘the application in practice of certain terms contained in the Public Order Ordinance, inter alia, “disorder in public places” or “unlawful assembly”, which may facilitate excessive restriction to the Covenant rights’ and recommended that Hong Kong should ensure that the implementation of the Public Order Ordinance is in conformity with the Covenant.

Yours sincerely,

Human Rights Watch: Hong Kong Gets Out the Vote

Sophie Richardson | 25 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

Over the past four days, more than 700,000 people in Hong Kong have presented the Chinese government with one of its worst nightmares: a peaceful process that challenges Beijing’s authority under international law [3]. As of June 23, according to some estimates, as many as one in five [4] registered voters have cast ballots through a non-binding, city-wide referendum to choose among three proposals for political reform in Hong Kong [5] — ignoring threats from the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the process.

The challenge Beijing faces is clear: should it grant real autonomy to Hong Kong’s 7.2 million citizens, and allow them to decide whom to elect and how? Or should it try to crush democratic aspirations among its citizens, as it has done [6] many times before?

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Human Rights Watch: Hong Kong Gets Out the Vote

Sophie Richardson | 25 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

Many Hong Kong citizens have made their views perfectly clear. From the right to participate in politics, the right to express those views, and their right to demonstrate peacefully as a means of manifesting change, international law is on their side. Who else is?

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Human Rights Watch: China: Allow Peaceful Demonstrations in Hong Kong

19 June 2014 | Human Rights Watch

“The white paper is a clear signal from Beijing to Hong Kong that universal suffrage will not be considered even in the face of mounting public pressure,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “Not only is it unacceptable for Beijing to simply override the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, doing so is also likely to contribute to mounting tensions in Hong Kong, where people have waited for decades for their promised democratic rights.”

Human Rights Watch urges the Hong Kong and central governments to ensure that any decision on the 2017 chief executive elections conforms to international human rights requirements, including those of the ICCPR. Any committee established for nominating candidates for the elections should likewise reflect such requirements and be selected by universal suffrage. Human Rights Watch also urges the Hong Kong and central governments to develop a time-bound and detailed plan to put into practice universal and equal suffrage.

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Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Prospects for Democracy and Press Freedom in Hong Kong

3 April 2014 | Congressional-Executive Commission on China

Under China’s “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong residents enjoy greater freedom and autonomy than people in mainland China, including freedoms of speech, press, and religion. China has stated it intends to allow Hong Kong residents to elect their Chief Executive by universal suffrage for the first time in 2017 and to elect Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by universal suffrage in 2020. As Hong Kong’s government contemplates electoral reform in the run-up to the 2017 election, concerns are growing that China’s central government will attempt to control the election by allowing only pro-Beijing candidates to run for Chief Executive. Concerns over press freedom have also grown in the wake of several incidents in which journalists have been violently attacked or fired.

The roundtable featured two prominent advocates for Hong Kong democracy, Martin Lee and Anson Chan, who examined the prospects for Hong Kong’s democratic development.

Link

United States Department of State: 2013 Human Rights Reports: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Hong Kong

27 February 2014 | United States Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The most important human rights problems reported were the limited ability of citizens to participate in and change their government, reports of arbitrary arrest or detention and other aggressive police tactics hampering the freedom of assembly, and a legislature with limited powers in which certain sectors of society wielded disproportionate political influence.

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Human Rights Watch: China: Keep Commitment to Hong Kong Democracy

26 November 2013 | Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch urged the Hong Kong and central governments to take immediate action, including by developing a time-bound and detailed plan, to put into practice universal and equal suffrage. They should ensure that any proposals for public consultation for the 2017 chief executive elections conform to international human rights standards, including those set out in the ICCPR. Any committee established for nominating candidates for the elections should conform to such requirements.

“Instead of spending time devising schemes to break promises on electoral reform, the Chinese government should move towards genuine universal suffrage,” said Adams. “The people of Hong Kong have continuously made it clear that they want real democracy. Beijing’s games only undermine its legitimacy in the territory.” 

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Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Annual Report 2013: Developments in Hong Kong and Macau

10 October 2013 | Congressional-Executive Commission on China

“Public demand grew for a more specific plan for election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (CE) through universal suffrage, which is set to occur in 2017. In July 2013, Hong Kong’s current CE, CY Leung, dismissed calls for early public consultation on electoral reform.”

“Concerns also grew over central government interference in the nomination of CE candidates in elections by universal suffrage, with statements from mainland Chinese officials ruling out a nominating process involving the broader voting public and stating that candidates would be required to be trusted by the central government.”

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Human Rights Watch: Report on universal suffrage and the freedom of assembly in Hong Kong

27 June 2013 | Human Rights Watch

“Hong Kong does continue to enjoy the rule of law and a high level of press freedom, but the lack of universal suffrage, reports of government interference, and self-censorship of the press, increasing numbers of arrests and prosecutions against protesters, as well as surveillance of protesters, are issues that pose serious threats to Hong Kong’s citizens’ enjoyment of their civil and political rights.”

In the hearing on “Macau and Hong Kong” before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Human Rights Watch urges the Hong Kong government to ensure that the new electoral methods developed for 2016, 2017, and beyond are in compliance with international standards on political participation. Human Rights Watch also urges the Hong Kong government to revise the Public Order Ordinance to ensure that the Ordinance is in accordance with provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights Ordinance.

Link

United Nations: Report of the Human Rights Committee

March 2013 | United Nations

“Hong Kong, China, should ensure the proper functioning of judicial structures in accordance with the Covenant and with principles governing the rule of law. As previously recommended (CCPR/C/HKG/CO/2, para.18), it should also ensure that all interpretations of the Basic Law, including on electoral and public affairs issues, are in full compliance with the Covenant.”

“Hong Kong, China, should take all necessary measures to implement universal and equal suffrage in conformity with the Covenant as a matter of priority for all future elections. It should outline clear and detailed plans on how universal and equal suffrage might be instituted and ensure enjoyment by all its citizens, under the new electoral system, of the right to vote and to stand for election in compliance with article 25 of the Covenant, taking due account of the Committee’s general comment No. 25 (1996) on the right to participate in public affairs, voting rights and the right of equal access to public service.”

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