Prof. Chan Cho-wai: On the “International Standards” of Democracy

Original Facebook post by HKU Prof. Joseph Chan Cho-wai

INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948)
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government;
this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall
be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by
equivalent free voting procedures.

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UNCRC: An Intenrational Legal Response to Robert Chow on collecting and exposing identifies of students on strike

8 Sept 2014

Robert Chow announced a new campaign targeting students who will be on strike and/or participate in occupy movement

Chow does not seem aware of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Hong Kong and China are both parties and which clearly states that:

Article 15

1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.

2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 16

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Concerned citizens may file complaints to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Personal Data at complaints@pcpd.org.hk.

China’s betrayal of Hong Kong

 2 Sept 2014 | Chicago Tribune

It’s enough to make you think you can’t trust a repressive authoritarian regime to honor its word. For years, the Chinese government had assured the people of Hong Kong that by 2017 they would be allowed to elect the city’s leader. On Sunday, though, it might as well have said, “It depends on the meaning of the word ‘elect.'”

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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 America Must Stand Up for Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement

Mike Gonzalez | 17 July 2014 | The Heritage Foundation

Loath to become the world’s policeman, the Obama administration has turned instead into its fireman. Hither and thither, the administration runs to different corners of the world trying to put out fires—today Central America, tomorrow Jerusalem, next week Syria. Such an approach may rack up air miles for the Secretary of State, but clearly, it’s no substitute for a preventive blueprint that safeguards our national interest.

As it happens, one part of the world experiencing a mini–flare up—Hong Kong—affords us an opportunity to pursue a long-term strategy pertaining to a much larger actor: China. Our foreign-policy challenges would ease considerably if China became a normal, status-quo country with elections, free markets and checks and balances that its leaders could use to manage internal tensions.

Allowing the 7.1 million people of Hong Kong to practice real democracy would let the authorities in Beijing see up close that there’s nothing to fear from a sovereign people. Over time, familiarity with democratic practices in this one Chinese city would help China’s leaders acquire for themselves the frame of mind needed to begin to introduce universal suffrage on the mainland itself.

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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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Big Four criticised by Amnesty International

2 July 2014 | Economia

The Big Four have faced criticism from human rights charity Amnesty International over an ad campaign criticising protests in Hong Kong

The firms published adverts in three Chinese-language newspapers, saying they were opposed to planned protests that might destabilise business in the Hong Kong financial district.

The adverts said protests would “inevitably” affect financial institutions and could result in multinational corporations moving headquarters from 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

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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The New York Times: Michael C. Davis on the Battle Over Hong Kong’s Future

Chris Buckley | 19 June 2014 | The New York Times

Hong Kong is undergoing deepening tensions over its political future as a self-governed territory under Chinese sovereignty. Democratic activists have demanded that residents win the right to elect Hong Kong’s top leader, called the chief executive, without procedures that would ensure that only candidates approved by Beijing appear on the ballot. Many of the activists have endorsed Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a movement whose members have said they will stage civil disobedience protests in the city’s financial heart if electoral reform plans proposed by the Hong Kong government and Beijing, possibly later this year, do not meet their criteria for universal suffrage.

In an interview, Michael C. Davis, a professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, explained what is at stake.

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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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Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba: A Lesson from Hong Kong

June 2014 | Foundation for Human Rights

Internet is becoming a decisive factor in the democracy of Hong Kong.

According to the recent article published by McClatchy DC, 3.5 million registered voters in Hong Kong are making a statement: “they want ballot choices in 2017.” However “China’s Communist Party is saying they want to control those choices.”

The key in all of this is the magic of having open internet in Hong Kong which has allowed democracy advocates to “conclude an informal poll on the ground rules for the 2017 election to determine the territory’s next chief executive. This has incited Beijing which “has strongly condemned the grass-roots referendum, calling it ‘illegal’ and a ‘farce.’ But it seams, the more the Chinese government fulminates, the more Hong Kong residents line up to register their wishes, both online and at ballot boxes.” In fact “as of Monday, more than 700,000 registered voters had participated, mostly by using smartphone apps or the Internet.”

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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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