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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Benny Tai: The rationale of Occupy Central is the pursuit of justice

Original published in Apple Daily on 26 August 2014: Read original
Translation on 28 August 2014

The real problem is not the alarm bell, but rather the fire.  It is still burning out there even without any alarm.  The loud alarm goes on just because of the fire, which is the root cause of the problem.  Those who ring the alarm bells, which are very loud indeed, are not trying to create disturbances but are actually trying to warn the occupants instead of fleeing himself.  What is really ridiculous is that the determination, courage and decisiveness are not used to put off the fire but rather used against the one who notices the fire and rings the alarm bells.  I could not help but ask: “What the heck is the rationale behind?”

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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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An Introduction to the Chief Executive Electoral Reform Debate

Alvin Y. H. Cheung | 25 July 2014 | Human Rights in China

Seventeen years after China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the former British colony has returned to the spotlight. The debate over reforms to the process for selecting the city’s next Chief Executive in 2017 has reached fever pitch. Democracy advocates are rallying behind the “Occupy Central” civil disobedience movement; authorities in Beijing have responded by threatening suppression by the People’s Liberation Army. But what is the argument about, and what is truly at stake?

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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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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,

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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Hong Kong still seeking a middle ground on electoral reform

Jeffie Lam | 6 May 2014 | SCMP

“The views are still polarised,” said Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, a Hong Kong Institute of Education political scientist, one of 18 academics who submitted a plan rejecting public nomination.

“Pan-democrats have been claiming the moral high ground to demand public nomination, whereas the government and Beijing loyalists have claimed the legal high ground to ban their ideas,” Fong said.

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(Cantonese) Panel Discussion on Hong Kong Basic Law and Civil Nomination

9 April 2014 | Center for Comparative and Public Law, Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong

In light of the current heated discussions on civil nominations and requirements of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the CCPL is organising a Panel Discussion to serve as an impartial and organised platform for leading figures who have expressed views on this topic to explain their views. We aim to fully manifest the spirit of rational discourse, which the CCPL is committed to enhancing at this crucial stage of Hong Kong’s constitutional development.

Watch video on SocREC Archive

Event details, including another seminar (Cantonese) of the same series

Academic Roundtable: Universal Suffrage and Nomination Procedures: Imperatives from Article 25 ICCPR

20 March 2014 | Center for Comparative and Public Law, Faulty of Law, The University of Hong Kong

The Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong hosted an academic roundtable on “Universal Suffrage and Nomination Procedures: Imperatives from Article 25 ICCPR” in light of the impending electoral reforms in Hong Kong on 20 March, 2014. The Roundtable garnered the reflections of international experts on the requirements of equal and universal suffrage as expressed in Article 25. These insights will be used as a basis to evaluate the various proposed models for electing the Chief Executive and members of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. 

Event details, including written submissions by participants

Watch video on SocREC archive

 

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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