Uncertainty grew over the implementation of human rights safeguards after Macao returns to Chinese administration in 1999. The Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region, which was adopted by China's National People's Congress in 1993 and will form the constitutional framework of Macao after it returns to Chinese administration on 20 December 1999, lacked some fundamental safeguards for human rights (see Amnesty International Report 1995). In March, the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group, which deals with issues surrounding the transfer of Macao to Chinese administration, said that it had agreed principles for the application to Macao of international human rights treaties ratified by Portugal and China, such as the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, it was unclear how some of the differences in the way China and Portugal recognized the competence of the UN Committee against Torture could be reconciled. In particular, while Portugal has made a declaration which allows citizens to complain directly to the Committee against Torture if they consider their rights under the Convention against Torture to have been violated, China has not, therefore denying its citizens this right. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group had reached no conclusion on the continued implementation in Macao of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which applies to Macao through Portugal's accession, and which is due to remain in force after 1999. As China is not a party to the ICCPR, the procedure for reporting to the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the ICCPR remained unclear. The death penalty, life imprisonment and imprisonment of indefinite duration were banned under Article 39 of the new Criminal Law, which came into force in January. The prohibition of the death penalty enshrined in law a long-standing practice, as no execution has taken place in Macao for over a century. The Joint Liaison Group, which examined the text before it was adopted, publicly supported it, suggesting that the death penalty would not be restored after 1999. However, no formal guarantee to that effect was given by China. There was continuing confusion about the legal rights of Macao residents wanted in China in connection with crimes committed there, which may carry the death penalty. However, claims that Macao residents suspected of crimes punishable by death under Chinese law had been handed over to law enforcement officials in China without a formal judicial process had not been confirmed by the end of the year. In December, an Amnesty International delegation met the President of Portugal and called on the Portuguese Government to seek further assurances that the death penalty would not be reinstated in Macao after 1999 and that arrangements would be agreed with the Chinese authorities for reporting to the relevant UN bodies on the implementation after 1999 of the ICCPR and other international human rights instruments. Amnesty International also urged the Portuguese authorities to ensure that Macao residents were not transferred to Chinese jurisdiction if accused of crimes which carry the death penalty under Chinese law.

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