The death penalty was abolished. Thousands of Vietnamese remained in detention after being denied asylum or pending a decision on their asylum applications. Preparations for the transition to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 dominated political debate. Successive rounds of Sino-British negotiations held during the year failed to resolve sharp criticism by China of political reform proposals made by Governor Christopher Patten in October 1992 (see Amnesty International Report 1993). Some of the proposals, which centred on widening the electoral base for members of the Legislative Council (Legco) to be elected in 1995, were submitted to Legco in December, despite Chinese objections. In June the People's Republic of China announced that it had set up a committee to prepare for the establishment in 1997 of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The committee adopted working rules banning unauthorized disclosure of its discussions. In July Legco approved without dissent a motion to establish an independent Human Rights Commission, but by the end of the year the proposal had not been approved by the Governor. Proposals for the Commission's functions included receiving and investigating complaints, advising individuals who allege that their rights have been violated, recommending reform of laws which conflict with the 1991 Bill of Rights, assuming an educational role on human rights, and exercising an adjudication role subject to review by the courts. The death penalty was abolished in April. It had applied to murder and other offences but had not been used for 27 years. Legco had passed a motion in favour of abolition in 1991 and the Governor had committed himself to abolition in an October 1992 policy statement. At the end of the year, about 34,000 Vietnamese asylum-seekers remained in detention, of whom more than 30,000 had been denied refugee status ("screened out"); the rest were awaiting a decision on their applications for asylum. Several thousand Vietnamese voluntarily returned to Viet Nam during 1993; a further 435 were forcibly returned. Asylum-seekers still did not have the right to appear in person when appealing against refusal of refugee status. There was no mechanism for detained Vietnamese asylum-seekers to have the legality of their detention reviewed, as required by international standards. In April Amnesty International wrote to Governor Patten to welcome the abolition of the death penalty. In October Amnesty International representatives met government officials to express concern about the continuing detention of Vietnamese asylum-seekers. An Amnesty International delegate also discussed with government officials, Legco members, legal scholars and human rights activists proposals for an independent Human Rights Commission and for broadening human rights education. Amnesty International said that a Human Rights Commission should improve the implementation of the Bill of Rights and international human rights standards by ensuring that victims of human rights violations had access to an affordable and effective complaints mechanism and by undertaking independent monitoring of human rights violations.

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