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TITLE:  HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                    HONG KONG

Hong Kong, a small, densely populated British dependency, is a 
free society with legally protected rights but without a broad 
democratic base.  Its constitutional arrangements are defined 
by the Letters Patent and Royal Instructions.  Executive powers 
are vested in a British Crown-appointed Governor who holds 
extensive authority.  The judiciary is an independent body 
adhering to English common law with certain variations.  
Fundamental rights ultimately rest on oversight by the British 
Parliament.  In practice, however, Hong Kong largely controls 
its own internal affairs.

A well-organized civilian police force maintains public order 
and respects the human rights of the populace.  

Hong Kong's free market economy is among the world's most 
important shipping, marketing, and finance centers.  It serves 
as an investment center for trade with China and as a 
communication and transportation hub for Asia.  Annual per 
capita gross domestic product increased by 5.5 percent in 1993 
to a projected $18,948.

The Bill of Rights, passed in June 1991, continued to make an 
impact on legislative process and criminal law.  Hong Kong 
political leaders and human rights groups have criticized the 
Government for not conforming Hong Kong laws to the Bill of 
Rights.  The Legislative Council is expected to consider 
measures aimed at further reconciliation during the 1993-94 
session.  The principal human rights problem is the inability 
of citizens to change their government.  China strongly 
criticized and opposed the Governor's 1992 proposed measures to 
broaden the political franchise before the colony reverts to 
China in 1997.  In ongoing political talks, the United Kingdom 
(U.K.) and China have not reached agreement on these 
proposals.  Discrimination and violence against women are 
continuing human rights concerns.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no instances of deaths in police custody or as a 
result of using force in restraining unarmed persons during 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of any disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture and other extreme forms of abuse are forbidden by law 
and subject to punishment.  Individual acts of police brutality 
occurred.  From January to July 1993, 996 allegations of police 
assault were lodged.  The total number of complaints against 
the police during this period numbered about 2,000.  As of 
July, 34 cases were substantiated, none of which resulted in 
death.  End of year figures were not available.  Disciplinary 
action can range from criminal proceedings to dismissal or 
warnings.  Complaints are investigated by an internal police 
unit, subject to outside review.  The authorities continued to 
reject calls from some legislators that investigations should 
be conducted by an independent body.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

British legal protections and common law traditions govern the 
process of arrest and detention and ensure substantial and 
effective legal protections against arbitrary arrest or 
detention.  Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Hong Kong's judicial and legal systems are organized according 
to principles of British constitutional law and legal precedent 
and feature, inter alia, an independent judiciary and trial by 
jury.  The right to a fair public trial is guaranteed and 
respected in practice.  

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The right of privacy is generally respected and provided for by 
law.  The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is 
vested with powers which are normally exercised only by a 
judicial officer.  Amendments to ordinances governing ICAC
deprived it of its independent authority to issue arrest or 
search warrants (it must now go to the courts), but it still 
operates on the assumption that any excessive, unexplainable 
assets held by civil servants are considered ill-gotten until 
proven otherwise.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

There is a tradition of free speech and press as practiced in 
Great Britain.  However, the admission by China's Ministry of 
Public Security that it has been gathering information on Hong 
Kong residents who are "against the Chinese Government" has had 
some chilling effect on free speech.  Numerous views and 
opinions, including those independent or critical of the 
British and Hong Kong Governments, are aired in the mass media, 
in public forums, and by political groups.  International media 
organizations operate freely in Hong Kong.  Although rarely 
imposed, several ordinances permit restrictions of the press.

Journalists report that self-censorship is on the increase as 
Hong Kong-based media organizations which are expanding their 
commercial ties in China, seek to avoid giving offense to the 
Chinese Government.  Following Chinese objections to a Hong 
Kong government proposal to "corporatize" the government-owned 
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), there have been no further 
efforts by the Hong Kong Government to do so.  The Government 
continues to refuse to consider freedom of information 
legislation proposed by Hong Kong civil liberties groups.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are practiced without significant hindrance, 
although the amended Societies Ordinance requires officeholders 
to notify the Police Commissioner (who is the Registrar of 
Societies) of the formation of a society.  The Ordinance 
permits the Registrar to refuse to register an organization 
that is found to be "incompatible with peace, welfare, or good 
order" or is affiliated with a political organization abroad.  
There were no instances of this provision being applied 
arbitrarily in 1993.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Government policy and general practice ensure freedom of 

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Travel documents are obtainable freely and easily, subject to 
neither arbitrary nor discriminatory practices.  There is 
freedom of movement within Hong Kong.

By 1991 more than 200,000 Vietnamese had arrived in Hong Kong 
seeking refugee status.  Hong Kong has never refused to accept, 
or pushed off, Vietnamese boat people.  Prior to June 1988, 
they were automatically accorded refugee status.  Thereafter, 
they were screened to determine their status and were held in 
prison-like detention centers awaiting resettlement in other 
countries or repatriation to Vietnam.  As of November 1993, 
only 67 Vietnamese had arrived Hong Kong since agreement was 
reached in late 1991 by the U.K. and Vietnam  The agreement 
provided for the immediate screening of new arrivals, mandatory 
repatriation to Vietnam of those whom the authorities 
determined not to be refugees, and the decision by the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to cease providing a 
reintegration subsistence allowance to new arrivals.

A trial of 13 Vietnamese accused of murdering 24 fellow 
detainees, who burned to death in a February 1992 riot when 
their hut was barricaded and set afire, is expected to continue 
until mid-1994.  In addition to the 13 defendants, 2 key 
defense witnesses were prevented from returning to 
Vietnam--despite volunteering to return home--until they have 
testified in the case.  Gang violence continues to be a problem 
in the camps, and women are often raped.  On September 1, the 
UNHCR began cutting nonessential services in the detention 
centers.  The move, which eliminated adult education, community 
and recreational activities in the camps, and cut back 
employment opportunities and some medical facilities, was 
criticized by some nongovernmental human rights organizations.

The Hong Kong Government has said it hopes to have all initial 
screening of Vietnamese asylum seekers completed by January 
1994.  Reintegration assistance programs inside Vietnam funded 
by the European community, the Hong Kong Government, and the 
United States provided an incentive for those not eligible for 
third country resettlement to return to Vietnam.  In order to 
spur voluntary repatriation of those not recognized as 
refugees, the Government slashed the assistance package 
available to those returning home by a third, effective 
November 1.  Anyone who volunteered before that time could 
still receive the full amount.  Those who have not completed 
the screening process by the deadline will have 90 days to make 
a decision for voluntary repatriation before benefits are cut.  
Of those found ineligible for resettlement or not yet screened, 
more than 10,000 persons had voluntarily returned to Vietnam by 
year's end and more than 34,000 since the agreement on the 
Comprehensive Plan of Action in 1989.  

On May 12, 1992, the Hong Kong government reached agreement 
with Vietnamese authorities on an Orderly Return Program (ORP) 
for screened-out nonrefugees in Hong Kong detention centers.  
Under the program, people are randomly chosen from among the 
nonrefugee camp population and are moved to a separate location 
several days before the flight's scheduled departure.  Hong 
Kong government security officers then escort all those being 
mandatorily returned on to the plane and accompany the flight 
to Vietnam.  Security officials have used limited force in the 
past when some nonrefugees resisted repatriation.  To date the 
Government has returned 730 persons aboard 14 ORP flights.  

The Government maintained its policy of deporting illegal 
Chinese immigrants to China, except in rare instances in which 
a person qualified as a refugee within the meaning of the U.N. 
Protocol on the Status of Refugees.  In 1992 an average of 130 
illegal immigrants, mostly young men, were arrested every day 
and returned to China.  Over 2,400 ethnic Vietnamese living in 
China fled to Hong Kong during 1992.  Called Ex-China 
Vietnamese Illegal Immigrants (EVCIIS) by the Government, they 
were not recognized as refugees by UNHCR or local authorities 
and were returned to China.  Following China's expulsion of Han 
Dongfang, a Chinese labor organizer, when he returned to China 
in August, the Hong Kong Government has repeatedly renewed 
Han's permission to remain in the colony while he has continued 
efforts to obtain Chinese permission to return to his homeland.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

While Hong Kong is a free society, with most individual 
freedoms and rights protected by law and custom, citizens of 
the territory do not have the right to change their 
government.  The Governor is appointed by and serves at the 
pleasure of the Crown.  He is advised on policy by an executive 
council which he appoints.

Legislation is enacted and funds are provided by the 
Legislative Council which also debates policy and questions the 
administration.  Although the legislature has virtually no 
power to initiate legislation, it has become more assertive 
since the September 1991 direct elections for some seats.  The 
Governor has ultimate control of the administration of Hong 
Kong but, by convention, he rarely exercises his full powers.  
In practice, decisions reached through consensus.  Political 
parties and independent candidates are free to contest seats in 
free and fair elections. Representative government employing 
universal franchise, however, does not exist.  Only 18 of 60 
legislators were elected by universal suffrage.  Of the rest, 
21 were either appointed by the Governor or are themselves 
government officials.  Another 21 were elected by functional 
groupings, such as lawyers, industrialists, teachers, laborers, 
and accountants.  Functional constituencies disproportionately 
represent the economic and professional elites and, moreover, 
violate the concept of one person-one vote, since voters in 
functional constituencies may vote both in a functional and a 
geographic constituency.

In his first policy address in October 1992, the Governor 
introduced several proposals intended to make the 1995 
legislature more democratic.  As originally proposed, the 
measures would give all eligible voters in the working 
population of 2.7 million a second vote in one of 30 functional 
constituencies.  Furthermore, the election committee, which 
would elect 10 legislators, would draw all or most of its 
members from the local district boards, which the Governor 
proposed to be entirely directly elected, rather than one-third 
appointed, as is the case now.  Even these measures, however, 
would not result in a fully representative, democratically 
elected government.  The Chinese Government, claiming it had 
not been consulted on these proposals, denounced them and 
warned that any changes which did not "converge" with the Basic 
Law, Hong Kong's post-1997 constitution, would be revoked when 
China resumes its exercise of sovereignty in 1997.  Since April 
1993, Chinese and British negotiators have been discussing the 
procedures for the 1995 Legislative Council elections, although 
progress has been negligible.  However, both the British and 
Chinese Governments earlier agreed that the number of 
legislators to be elected by universal suffrage in 1995 will 
increase to 20.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Although the Government to date has interposed no official 
barriers to the formation of local human rights groups, some 
human rights monitors believe that provisions of the Societies 
Ordinance provide the legal means whereby a future government 
could do so.  The Government has consistently cooperated with 
international and nongovernmental organizations on human rights 
issues.  The UNHCR and nongovernmental human rights 
organizations have full access to Hong Kong's camps for 
Vietnamese boat people.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Chinese language has equal status with English in many 
government operations.  The Government is continuing efforts to 
place Hong Kong Chinese in senior positions.  In September the 
Government announced the appointment of several locally born 
Hong Kong civil servants (mostly Chinese, but one locally born 
Indian) to key positions.  For the first time a Hong Kong 
Chinese was appointed to the top civil service position.  
Overall, however, progress remains slow in replacing 
expatriates serving in other policy-related positions.  
Expatriates remain in key positions in the legal and police 
departments as well as the judiciary.

Complicating the Government's localization efforts have been 
expatriate government workers on local contracts who threaten 
legal action against the Government if they are not allowed to 
convert to regular civil service status.  The Government's 
decision to allow long-resident expatriates with appropriate 
job qualifications to convert has drawn charges from local 
civil servant organizations that the Government has reneged on 
its localization policy.  As of September, the Government's 
decision to allow expatriates to convert remained in effect 
although some members of the Legislative Council threatened to 
overturn it in the 1993-94 legislative session.


Violence and discrimination against women remain significant 
problems.  The only legislation to protect the rights of 
battered women is the 1987 Domestic Violence Ordinance, which 
enables a woman to seek a 3-month injunction against her 
husband.  This may be extended to 6 months.  In addition, 
domestic violence may be prosecuted as common assault under 
existing criminal statutes.  The Government enforces these laws 
and prosecutes violators.  Nevertheless, women's action groups 
continue to press for better legal and government provisions 
for battered wives.  They call for public housing to house 
women as soon as they leave their violent husbands.  Harmony 
House, a private voluntary agency, and the Social Welfare 
Department operate two homes which offer refuge to a small 
number of women.  Harmony House also has conducted training 
programs for police personnel on how to deal with domestic 
violence.  Many instances of domestic violence, however, are 
not reported, owing partly to cultural factors which frown on 
exposing family crises to the public eye but also to a lack of 
well-publicized information about the assistance and resources 

Women face discrimination in areas of employment, salary, 
welfare, and promotion.  While a number of women hold senior 
appointive government positions, only two were elected to the 


The Government supports child welfare programs including 
custody, protection, day care, foster care, shelters, and small 
group homes.  Assistance is also provided to families.  Child 
abuse and exploitation are not widespread problems in Hong 
Kong.  The Government remains committed to the human rights and 
welfare of children.

     People with Disabilities

Organizations and individuals representing the interests of the 
disabled claim that discrimination against the physically and 
mentally disabled exists in employment, education, and the 
provision of some state services.  Access to public buildings 
and transportation remain problems for the physically 
impaired.  Advocate groups have urged the Government to do more 
to encourage greater public tolerance of the mentally 
disabled.  Harassment of and discrimination against families 
with mentally disabled children, for example, have occurred in 
some housing projects.  There also has been criticism that 
mentally disabled children are not allowed opportunities to 
"mainstream" into public school programs.  The Government is 
generally receptive and sympathetic to these concerns; it 
encourages greater employment for the disabled and seeks 
improved access to public facilities for those physically 
impaired.  However, there is as yet no law mandating 
accessibility provisions for disabled persons. 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of association and the right of workers to establish 
and join organizations of their own choosing are guaranteed 
under local law.  Trade unions must be registered under the 
Trade Unions Ordinance.  The basic precondition for 
registration is a minimum of seven persons who serve in the 
same occupation.  The Government does not discourage or impede 
the formation of unions.  During 1992, 11 new unions were 
registered.  However, only about 525,000 workers (or 18.5 
percent) out of a total labor force of 2.84 million belong to 
one of the 522 registered unions, most of which belong to one 
of three major trade union federations.

Work stoppages and strikes are permitted.  However, there are 
some restrictions on this right for civil servants.  Even 
though the Employment Ordinance recognizes the right to strike, 
in practice most workers must sign employment contracts which 
typically state that walking off the job is a breach of 
contract and can lead to summary dismissal.  The Employment 
Ordinance also permits firms to discharge or deduct wages from 
staff who are absent on account of a labor dispute.  

Hong Kong labor unions may form federations, confederations, 
and affiliate with international bodies.  Any affiliation with 
foreign labor unions requires the consent of the Government.  
All such requests have been granted.  As a dependent territory 
of the U. K., Hong Kong is not a member in its own right of the 
International Labor Organization (ILO).  The U.K. makes 
declarations on behalf of Hong Kong concerning the latter's 
obligations regarding the various ILO conventions.  To date, 
Hong Kong has implemented provisions applying 29 conventions in 
full and 18 other with modifications.  In the Basic Law, China 
undertook to continue to adhere to these conventions after 1997.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively is guaranteed by 
law.  Hong Kong laws pertaining to collective bargaining cover 
mainly the shipping, textile, public transport, public utility, 
and carpentry trades, and the catering, construction, public 
service, and teaching professions.  Wages are determined by 
market factors.  While collective bargaining does take place, 
it is not widely practiced, and in general there are no 
mechanisms specifically to encourage it.  Unions generally are 
not powerful enough to force management to engage in collective 
bargaining.  The Government does not encourage it, since the 
Government itself does not engage in collective bargaining with 
civil servants' unions but merely "consults" with them.  Free 
conciliation services are afforded by the Labor Relations 
Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) to employers and 
employees involved in disputes dealing with arrears of wages, 
wages in lieu of notice, severance pay, and breaches of 
contractual employment terms.  The DOL is charged with finding 
a mutually acceptable settlement, although it does not have the 
authority to impose a solution.  The DOL is not required by law 
to allow unions to represent employees in these proceedings.  
Instead, union representation depends upon the mutual consent 
of both the employee and the employer.

Workers are protected against antiunion discrimination under 
Hong Kong legislation.  Employees who allege such 
discrimination have the right to have their cases heard by the 
DOL's Labor Relations Division.  Employers who attempt to 
prevent or deter an employee from joining a labor union, or who 
terminate an employee for joining a labor union, are liable to 
a fine of approximately $650.  However, the employers are not 
required to reinstate the employee or to compensate him.  

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is 
highly critical of the inadequacy of Hong Kong's labor 
legislation, with its failure to protect the right to strike, 
and provisions allowing dismissals and disciplinary action 
against trade unionists going on strike.  The ICFTU cites as an 
example the 17-day strike by the Flight Attendant's Union at 
Cathay Pacific at the beginning of 1993, in which striking 
workers were threatened with disciplinary action and 
dismissal.  Individual labor claims are also adjudicated by the 
Labor Tribunal, a part of the judicial branch, which is 
supposed to provide quick and inexpensive machinery for 
resolving certain types of disputes.  The Tribunal complements 
the conciliation service provided by the Labor Relations 
Division.  Union leaders complain, however, that the Tribunal 
takes too long--an average of 133 days--to hear workers' cases.

There are no export processing zones in Hong Kong.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Existing labor legislation prohibits forced labor, and it is 
not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Employment of Children Regulations prohibit the employment 
of children under age 15 in any industrial establishment.  
Children aged 13 and 14 may be employed in certain 
nonindustrial establishments, subject to conditions aimed at 
ensuring a minimum of 9 years' education and protecting their 
safety, health, and welfare.  During 1992, 9 campaigns against 
the employment of children covered about 26,100 establishments 
and found 18 children working in violation of the law, 
according to the annual report of the Commissioner for Labor.  
A number of these cases were successfully prosecuted and fines 
of around $200 were levied.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no minimum wage except for foreign domestic workers.

Aside from a small number of trades and industries where a 
uniform wage structure exists, wage levels are customarily 
fixed by individual agreement between employer and employee and 
are determined by supply and demand.  In view of continued 
tightness in Hong Kong's labor market (unemployment averaged 
about 2.1 percent for 1993), wage increases were given to most 
workers, particularly those in the construction industry and 
service sectors.  Many employees also receive a year-end bonus 
of a month's pay or more.  Some employers in the manufacturing 
sector provide workers with various kinds of allowances, free 
medical treatment, and free or subsidized transport.

There are no legal restrictions on hours of work for men.  The 
Women and Young Persons (Industry) Regulations under the 
Employment Ordinance control hours and conditions of work for 
women and young people aged between 15 and 17.  Work hours are 
limited to 8 per day and 48 per week between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. 
(between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. only for women, however, this 
provision is very loosely enforced) for persons age 16 or 
over.  Overtime is restricted to 2 hours per day and 200 days 
per year for women and is prohibited for all persons under 18 
in industrial establishments.  The regulations also prohibit 
women and young persons from working underground or, with the 
exception of males aged 16 and 17, in dangerous trades.  The 
Labor Inspectorate conducts workplace inspections to ensure 
compliance with these regulations.  During 1992 it carried out 
198,748 inspections of approximately 190,000 establishments in 
industrial and nonindustrial sectors, which resulted in 3,624 
prosecutions of employers and a wide range of fines depending 
on the seriousness of the violation.  The employment of 
underaged workers is generally not a serious problem.

The DOL Factory Inspectorate sets basic occupational safety and 
health standards, provides education and publicity, and follows 
up with enforcement and inspection in accordance with the 
Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance and subsidiary 
regulations.  The Inspectorate pays particular attention to 
safety in high-risk areas of factories and construction sites, 
with routine visits to factories and construction sites.  
During 1992 inspectors visited 63,135 factories and 15,229 
construction sites and issued 2,811 summons.  As part of a 
complementary effort, the DOL Occupational Health Division 
investigates claims of occupational diseases and injuries at 
work, conducts environmental testing in the workplace, and 
provides medical examinations to employees in occupations that 
involve the handling of hazardous materials.  The small number 
of inspectors--about 200--and the inability of workers to elect 
their own safety representatives weaken the enforcement of 
safety and health standards at the workplace.  There is no 
specific legal provision allowing workers to remove themselves 
from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 

[end of document]


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