Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - Hong Kong, 1 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9fa4.html [accessed 1 June 2016]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Thousands of Vietnamese asylum-seekers remained in detention, some facing forcible return to Viet Nam. Hundreds of them were ill-treated by the security forces during transfer operations. The government took some steps to improve safeguards for human rights but failed to establish an independent human rights commission. Uncertainty continued about the political and legislative structure of Hong Kong after it reverts to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997. In September China's National People's Congress adopted a resolution providing for the dissolution in July 1997 of Hong Kong's partly elected Legislative Council (Legco) and of other elected agencies whose term of office would otherwise straddle the handover period. The resolution did not specify how the membership of the succeeding bodies would be chosen but Chinese officials indicated that the Preparatory Working Committee (PWC) for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, established by China in 1993 to oversee the transfer of sovereignty, would address this point before 1997. The PWC stated in April that it was reviewing the consistency of Hong Kong's laws with the Chinese Constitution. Laws found to be inconsistent may be abolished after 1997. By the end of 1994 the Committee had not yet completed its review of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, which enshrines many of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Hong Kong law. In October Chinese officials reportedly indicated that they took the view that China was under no obligation to report to the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the ICCPR in Hong Kong, although such reporting is mandatory under the provisions of the ICCPR. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong provides for the ICCPR and other international human rights treaties to remain in force after 1997. By the end of 1994 no arrangement to fulfil the reporting obligation after 1997 had been agreed. In April members of Legco renewed calls on the government to establish an independent human rights commission (see Amnesty International Report 1994). In July the Hong Kong Government tabled before Legco a number of proposals aimed at improving existing safeguards for human rights, but falling short of establishing a commission. The proposals included a widening of the mandate of the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints, increased budgets for human rights education and changes in rules governing the provision of legal aid to citizens who complain that their rights have been violated and wish to bring a civil suit against the government. The proposals were approved by Legco in July. By the end of the year, over 22,000 Vietnamese asylum-seekers remained in detention in camps in the territory, almost all of whom had been denied refugee status ("screened out") and were facing forcible return to Viet Nam if they did not opt for "voluntary repatriation". Another 380 had not completed the screening process. Many of those remaining in Hong Kong had spent several years in detention without effective access to judicial review of their detention. In March members of the security forces raided barracks housing "screened- out" asylum-seekers in Whitehead Detention Centre, in order to transfer them to another camp pending their return to Viet Nam. Facing strong opposition from some asylum-seekers, the security forces used large amounts of tear-gas and physical force to complete the transfer. In the days that followed hundreds of asylum-seekers were reported to have sought medical assistance for bruises caused by batons and for burns and respiratory diseases allegedly resulting from the use of tear-gas fired at close range. An official inquiry into the incident, commissioned by Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, concluded in September that excessive force had been used and criticized the lack of preparation by the security forces. In October two Correctional Services Department officers were given suspended prison sentences for beating asylum-seekers during the incident. In March Amnesty International called on the Hong Kong Government to carry out an impartial and thorough investigation into the Whitehead incident. In April the organization published a report, Hong Kong: Arbitrary detention of Vietnamese asylum-seekers, calling on the government to end the arbitrary and indefinite detention of Vietnamese asylum-seekers. In another report, Hong Kong and Human Rights: Flaws in the System A Call for Institutional Reform to Protect Human Rights, also published in April, Amnesty International urged the Hong Kong Government to establish an independent human rights commission, to ensure that those who complain of human rights violations have access to an effective and affordable procedure to seek remedy, and to develop training for officials on human rights law and human rights education programs. It also called on the British and Chinese Governments to agree with the relevant UN committees on methods to fulfil reporting obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the ICCPR, which are in force in Hong Kong but which China has not yet ratified.