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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government was fully committed to the protection of human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee heard today (March 12, Geneva time) at the hearing of Hong Kong's third report in light of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
At the opening of the hearing in Geneva, Switzerland, the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Ms Chang King-yiu, assured the Committee of the HKSAR Government's determination and efforts in safeguarding human rights in Hong Kong.
The HKSAR Government updated the Committee on the developments made since the second report in 2005. These included the enactment of the Race Discrimination Ordinance which came into full operation in 2009; the introduction of a much enhanced screening mechanism for torture claims, the legislation of which was enacted in December 2012; and the significant uplifting of the financial eligibility and widening of the scope of the legal aid services in recent years. On constitutional development, the HKSAR Government has pledged to continue its determined efforts in taking forward the HKSAR's constitutional development in a steadfast manner.
"The HKSAR Government is fully committed to attaining universal suffrage for both the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in accordance with the Basic Law and the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in December 2007. We will, at an appropriate juncture, launch public consultations on the election methods for the LegCo election in 2016 and the CE election in 2017, and initiate the required constitutional procedures accordingly," said Ms Chang.
On equal opportunities for sexual minorities, Ms Chang reiterated that the HKSAR Government considered it essential that the community should have a rational and informed discussion in due course. The Government will continue to listen to different views from various sectors.
At the hearing, the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, gave a summary account of the HKSAR's response to the list of issues which the Committee had sought further information in November 2012. These included the appointment of the new Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission which was made through an open recruitment exercise.
Furthermore, Mr Lau explained the effectiveness of the two-tier police complaints handling system of the Complaints Against Police Office and the Independent Police Complaints Council, which was made statutory in 2009 through the enactment of the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance.
Mr Lau also elaborated on the commitment of the HKSAR Government in protecting the well-being of foreign domestic helpers. In addition to receiving the same statutory employment protection as local workers under Hong Kong's Employment Ordinance, foreign domestic helpers are further protected by a mandatory standard employment contract prescribed by the Government.
The ICCPR is one of the seven international human rights treaties applicable to Hong Kong which entail reporting obligations. It has been extended to Hong Kong since 1976. Basic Law Article 39 stipulates that the provisions of the Covenant, along with those of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and be implemented through the laws of Hong Kong after the reunification with China in 1997.
The HKSAR's first report in light of the ICCPR was submitted and considered by the Committee in 1999. The last round of the hearing for the second report was conducted in March 2006.
Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland, Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, introduced the HKSAR delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The nine-member delegation led by Ms Chang consists of the Solicitor General, Mr Frank Poon; the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah; and representatives from the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau and the Hong Kong Police Force.
The Committee received the HKSAR Government's third report on the implementation of the ICCPR in April 2011 and sought further information on a list of issues in November 2012. Members of the Committee will discuss these issues with the government delegation during the hearing on March 12 and 13.
The HKSAR's third report is available for public reference on the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau's website at www.cmab.gov.hk/en/issues/prc_4.htm.
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