Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - Hong Kong, 1 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9fb3c.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
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.
There was growing uncertainty as to the implementation of human rights safeguards after the forthcoming return to Chinese sovereignty. Thousands of Vietnamese asylum-seekers remained in detention, most facing forcible return to Viet Nam. In September the Democratic Party, which had often been critical of Governor Christopher Patten and of Chinese Government policies towards Hong Kong, won a clear majority in the elections to the Legislative Council. The Chinese Government reaffirmed its intention to disband the Council in July 1997. In December the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress appointed a 150-member Preparatory Committee for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), to be set up in July 1997 when China resumes sovereignty over the territory. The Committee was mandated to nominate the 400 members of a Selection Committee to draw up a list of candidates from which the Chinese Government would designate the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR during 1996. In June China and the United Kingdom (UK) agreed in principle that the Court of Final Appeal (CFA), which would form the highest judicial body in Hong Kong after July 1997, would start operating on 1 July 1997. Earlier suggestions that the CFA start operating before that date to ease the transition of sovereignty were abandoned. In August a senior Chinese official indicated that the Chief Executive designate would be involved in the choice of CFA judges. Chinese officials also reiterated a statement, first made in December 1994, that all judges were to be reappointed by the Hong Kong SAR Government. These statements gave rise to concern that current levels of judicial independence could be undermined after July 1997. In September the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC), an advisory body set up by China in 1993 to prepare the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, stated that it considered the 1991 Bill of Rights Ordinance to be partly inconsistent with the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong and with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, adopted by China in 1990 and due to come into force in 1997. The Ordinance translates into Hong Kong law most provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The PWC's statement led to renewed fears that the Hong Kong SAR authorities could seek to amend the Bill of Rights after 1997 to restrict the scope of the human rights safeguards it contains. In October the UN Human Rights Committee, considering the fourth periodic report of the UK on the implementation of the ICCPR in Hong Kong, criticized the lack of adequate remedies for the victims of human rights violations. It asked the Hong Kong authorities to reconsider their refusal to establish an independent human rights commission. It asked the UK authorities to present a supplementary report by May 1996, outlining new developments in human rights safeguards in Hong Kong and the action taken by the Hong Kong authorities to implement the Committee's recommendations. In a statement by its Chairperson the Committee affirmed that the ICCPR would continue to protect the rights of the people of Hong Kong after its reversion to Chinese sovereignty. The Committee based this view on jurisprudence establishing that when territory is transferred from one state to another, the successor state continues to be bound by the obligations under human rights treaties, such as the ICCPR, entered into by the predecessor state. It added that this view was consistent with the agreement reached in 1984 by China and the UK that the ICCPR and other international instruments, as applied to Hong Kong, would remain in force beyond 1997. The Committee emphasized that the obligation to report on how the ICCPR is implemented in Hong Kong would continue to apply after 1997. In January, two police officers, who had been charged with assaulting dentist Leung Shu-keung in April 1993, were acquitted. However, the presiding judge criticized the investigation into the case by the Complaints Against the Police Office and accused it of having been "lethargic, inefficient and incompetent". Over 20,000 Vietnamese asylum-seekers continued to be held in detention camps throughout the year. Virtually all of them had been denied refugee status, following a flawed refugee determination procedure (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Most faced forcible return to Viet Nam. There were reports that asylum-seekers were ill-treated by the security forces, particularly during large-scale operations to transfer some of the asylum-seekers prior to forcible repatriation. In October Amnesty International published a report, Hong Kong: Safeguards for human rights, summarizing the organization's concerns about the insufficient remedies for victims of human rights violations. In October it submitted its report to the UN Human Rights Committee.