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TITLE:  HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995










                           HONG KONG


Hong Kong, a small, densely populated British dependency, is a 
free society with legally protected rights.  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.
The Governor appoints an advisory Executive Council and a 
partially representative Legislative Council has limited 
powers.

A well-organized civilian police force maintains public order 
and generally respects the human rights of the populace.  There 
were, however, instances in which police used excessive force.

Hong Kong, a major regional and international trade and 
financial center, is the principal gateway for trade and 
investment with China.  Its prosperous free market economy 
operates on the basis of minimal government interference.  Per 
capita gross domestic production was about $20,000 in 1994.

Human rights monitors, journalists, and concerned legislators 
criticized the Government for opposing major human rights 
initiatives, including the establishment of a human rights 
commission and legislation against discrimination.  Human 
rights problems included an increasing amount of 
self-censorship by the media, the inability of people to change 
their government, and discrimination against women.  There were 
allegations of police use of excessive force; the authorities 
investigated and punished offenders in accordance with existing 
laws and regulations.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

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

The law forbids torture and other extreme forms of abuse and 
stipulates punishment of those using them.  However, police 
officers continued to use excessive force.  During the first 
half of the year, complainants filed 797 allegations of assault 
by the police.  As of July, the authorities had substantiated 
64 of these.

Disciplinary action ranged from criminal proceedings to 
dismissal or warnings.  The Office of Police Complaints 
investigates complaints.  The Police Complaints Committee, 
which consists of independent members appointed by the 
Governor, monitors and reviews the handling of such 
complaints.  The Government, however, continues to resist 
public calls for the creation of an independent body to 
investigate allegations of police abuse.

     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

The judicial and legal systems are organized according to 
principles of British law and legal precedent, and feature, 
inter alia, an independent judiciary and trial by jury.  The 
law provides the right to a fair public trial, and this is 
respected in practice.

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

The law provides for the right of privacy, and the Government 
generally respects this right.  The Independent Commission 
Against Corruption (ICAC) is vested with powers which are 
normally exercised only by a judicial officer.  Amendments to 
ordinances governing the ICAC deprived it of this 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 
the United Kingdom.  Numerous views and opinions, including 
those independent or critical of the British, Hong Kong, and 
Chinese Governments are aired in the mass media, in public 
forums, and by political groups.  International media 
organizations operate freely.  However, several ordinances 
permit restrictions of the press, although authorities rarely 
impose them.  The Government required a permit for the 
screening of a controversial British Broadcasting Corporation  
(BBC) documentary on Mao Zedong by the Foreign Correspondents 
Club, after China raised objections, but permitted the program 
to be shown.

The imminent return to Chinese control, however, led some 
journalists to practice self-censorship.  Several incidents 
during the year had a chilling effect on Hong Kong's media and 
on the media's judgments of the future press environment after 
1997.  These included 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," the 
Chinese Government's secret trial and sentencing of Hong Kong 
reporter Xi Yang to 12 years' imprisonment for stealing "state 
financial secrets," and Chinese Government actions taken 
against Hong Kong businessman/publisher Jimmy Lai's commercial 
establishments in Beijing after Lai published an open letter 
critical of Chinese Premier Li Peng.  Following up these 
incidents, Asia Television (ATV) executives attempted to cancel 
a news program about the sixth anniversary of the June 4, 1989, 
Tiananmen Massacre.  This sparked resignations by members of 
the station's senior editorial staff, who alleged that 
management feared possible repercussions from Chinese 
Government objections to the program's airing.  Management 
decided to broadcast the program.  In April the Newscorp 
Satellite Broadcasting Station, STAR TV, terminated broadcast 
of BBC news from its northern beam, which covers China and Hong 
Kong.  It is widely assumed that Newscorp did so because of 
Chinese Government objections to the BBC's "critical" reporting 
on China.

Journalists report that such self-censorship is also increasing 
for commercial reasons, as Hong Kong-based media organizations 
which are expanding their ties in China seek to avoid offending 
the Chinese Government.  Following Chinese objections to a Hong 
Kong Government proposal to privatize the government-owned 
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), there have been no further 
efforts by the Hong Kong Government to do so.  The Government 
opposed freedom of information legislation proposed by 
Legislative Council members and instead decided that an 
administrative code of practice on access to government 
information should be developed.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The authorities imposed no significant hindrance on the freedom 
of peaceful assembly and association, although the amended 
Societies Ordinance requires officeholders to notify the Police 
Commissioner of the formation of a society.  The Societies 
Officer may recommend to the Secretary for Security that the 
operation or continued operation of a society be prohibited if 
he reasonably believes that the operation or continued 
operation may be prejudicial to the security of Hong Kong, or 
to public safety, or public order.  While the provision in the 
Ordinance allowing the Government to refuse to register an 
organization "incompatible with peace, welfare, or good order" 
or affiliated with a political organization abroad was repealed 
in 1992, China adopted similar language in the Basic Law which 
will become effective in 1997.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Hong Kong bill of rights includes a provision prohibiting 
discrimination on the basis of religion.  The various faiths 
represented in Hong Kong are able to practice without 
restrictions.

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

The Government does not impose restrictions on the travel of 
legal residents or visitors within or outside Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has never refused to accept nor pushed off Vietnamese 
boat people.  Refugee status was automatically accorded prior 
to June 1988, after which boat people were screened to 
determine their status, and held in prison-like detention 
centers awaiting resettlement in other countries or 
repatriation to Vietnam.  In 1991 the United Kingdom and 
Vietnam reached agreement on the mandatory repatriation of 
those whom the authorities determined not to be refugees.  The 
Hong Kong Government completed all initial screening of 
Vietnamese asylum seekers in March.  The Government announced 
completion of all secondary screening by the Refugee Status 
Review Board.

Reintegration assistance programs inside Vietnam, funded by the 
European Union, the Hong Kong Government, the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United States 
provided an incentive for those not eligible for third-country 
resettlement to return to Vietnam.  On August 8, the Hong Kong 
Government began offering a "special reintegration allowance" 
of $150 to all Vietnamese migrants who by year's end 
volunteered to repatriate.  Funding came from money set aside 
by the British Government.  Of those found ineligible for 
resettlement or not yet screened, since 1989 more than 44,217 
have voluntarily returned under the Comprehensive Plan of 
Action agreed on in Geneva in that year, with 5,581 returning 
in 1994.  Some 24,000 Vietnamese boat people remain in Hong 
Kong.  In May 1992, the Government reached agreement with 
Vietnamese authorities on an Orderly Return Program (ORP) for 
the compulsory return of screened-out nonrefugees in 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 a flight's scheduled 
departure.  Government security officers then escort all those 
being mandatorily returned on to the plane and accompany the 
flight to Vietnam.

On April 7, 1,250 security officials used over 550 canisters of 
tear gas to remove 1,500 screened-out asylum seekers protesting 
the selection of individuals for the ORP.  Scores of persons 
were injured, and a government investigation resulted in the 
indictment of three security officers charged with using 
excessive force.  While initial stories of a similar operation 
conducted in September mentioned 200 injured asylum seekers, a 
report later issued by three neutral nongovernmental 
organization observers discounted those claims and praised the 
government's handling of the incident.  In a third action about 
a month later, security officials again used minimal force, 
which resulted in three minor injuries to protesting asylum 
seekers.  The Government recently has adopted new procedures to 
prevent excessive violence, including the regular appointment 
of independent monitors to observe such operations.  ORP 
flights resumed on September 20 and by year's end the 
Government had returned 250 persons aboard ORP flights, and a 
total of 1,175 persons since the program began.

The Government maintained its policy of deporting illegal 
Chinese immigrants to China, except in rare instances in which 
a person was found to be qualified as a refugee within the 
meaning of the U.N. Protocol on the Status of Refugees.  There 
were 2,400 ethnic Vietnamese who fled from China to Hong Kong 
in 1993.  Called Ex-China Vietnamese Illegal Immigrants 
(ECVIIS) by the Government, they were not recognized as 
refugees by the UNHCR or local authorities, and 446 were still 
in detention as of December; another 14 were released when 
Chinese authorities were unable to verify that they had been 
resettled in China.

Following China's expulsion of Han Dongfang, a Chinese labor 
organizer, when he returned to China in August 1993, the 
Government has repeatedly renewed Han's permit to remain in the 
territory.  The Chinese Government has refused to allow Han's 
return to China.  (See also the China report.)

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

Although the Government has adopted measures to democratize 
district and municipal boards and the Legislative Council, 
citizens of the Territory do not have the right to change their 
governor and only very limited ability to effect changes in 
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.

The Legislative Council enacts and funds legislation.  It also 
debates policy and questions the administration.  Although the 
Legislature's power to initiate legislation is limited (all 
bills with budgetary implications, for example, must be 
approved by the Government before introduction), it has become 
increasingly assertive.  The Governor has ultimate control of 
the administration of Hong Kong but, by convention, rarely 
exercises his full powers.  In practice, decisions are reached 
through consensus.

Political parties and independent candidates are free to 
contest seats in free and fair elections.  Representative 
government employing universal franchise exists at the local 
district board level.  All municipal board members will be 
elected in 1995.  However, of the Legislative Council's 60 
members, only 18 were elected by universal suffrage in 1991, 
and this number will increase by only 2 in elections in 1995.  
Currently, 21 members were either appointed by the Governor or 
are themselves government officials.  Another 21 were elected 
by functional constituencies which 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.  The Legislative Council adopted Governor Chris 
Patten's proposals broadening the political franchise by 
lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, opening all district 
board seats to direct election, increasing the number of 
Functional Constituencies (elected by professional groups) from 
21 to 30, and providing Hong Kong residents greater say in the 
selection of Functional Constituency Legislative Council 
members previously selected by narrow constituencies.

The Government is also implementing legislation which will 
abolish all appointed seats in the 1995 election and 
significantly broaden functional constituencies to allow all 
working residents a second vote.  These measures will still not 
result in a fully representative, democratically elected 
government.  In the absence of prior Sino-British agreement on 
these measures, the Chinese Government announced its intention 
to disband Hong Kong's elected bodies when the territory 
reverts to China in 1997.

Hong Kong Chinese are seriously underrepresented in senior 
government positions.  The Government is continuing efforts to 
place Hong Kong Chinese in senior positions and has publicly 
committed to fill "principal official" posts with local 
officers before 1997.  Expatriates remain in key positions in 
the Legal Department and judiciary.  The Government's efforts 
to add Chinese to the Government have been opposed by a group 
of expatriate government workers who have undertaken legal 
action against the Government, claiming they are being 
discriminated against under the provisions of Hong Kong's Bill 
of Rights.  The case is still pending.  Women are playing a 
greater role in politics, with greater numbers running for 
public office in the 1994 elections than ever before.  Women 
comprise 13 percent of the Legislative Council and 36 percent 
of the senior ranks of the government secretariat.

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 consistently cooperated with 
international and nongovernmental human rights organizations on 
human rights issues.  The International Covenants on Civil and 
Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 
currently apply to Hong Kong through the United Kingdom.  The 
UNHCR and nongovernmental human rights organizations have full 
access to camps for Vietnamese boat people.

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

There is no legislation banning discrimination.  Some 
Legislative Council members supported the introduction of 
antidiscrimination measures addressing the problems of sex, 
age, race, and age discrimination, but the Government opposed 
the legislation, indicating that it would introduce its own 
bill banning discrimination on the basis of sex and 
disability.  It has not yet done so.  The Chinese language has 
equal status with English in government operations except in 
judicial proceedings.  To help remedy this, the Government has 
increased the number of directorate officers in the Legal Aid 
Department proficient in Chinese from three (of nine) to 
seven.

     Women

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 agency 
which receives some government subsidies, 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 crisis to the public eye, but 
also to the Government's failure to publicize information about 
the assistance and resources available.

Women face discrimination in the areas of employment, salary, 
welfare, inheritance, and promotion.  Discrimination on the 
basis of age, particularly in hiring practices, is openly 
practiced and is not prohibited by law.  Legislation to 
prohibit existing clan practices in the New Territories which 
discriminate against women on the basis of inheritance rights 
recently was approved by the Legislative Council in 1994.

     Children

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.

     People with Disabilities

There is no law mandating accessibility to buildings and 
government services for disabled persons.  Organizations and 
individuals representing the interests of the disabled claim 
that discrimination exists in employment, education, and the 
provision of some state services.  The Government continues to 
oppose legislation addressing the needs of people with 
disabilities.

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 provided for 
by 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 1993, 22 new trade unions were registered.  
Approximately 543,800 workers (roughly 20 percent) of a total 
labor force of 2.6 million belong to the 532 registered unions, 
most of which belong to one of three major trade union 
federations.

Work stoppages and strikes are permitted.  However, the 
Government places 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.

Labor unions may form federations, confederations, and 
affiliate with international bodies.  However, the Government 
must approve any affiliation with foreign labor unions.  The 
Government has never refused such applications.  The United 
Kingdom makes declarations on behalf of the territory 
concerning Hong Kong's obligations regarding the various 
International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.  To date, 
Hong Kong has implemented provisions applying 31 ILO 
conventions in full and 18 others 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

Although there are no laws mandating collective bargaining, ILO 
Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively 
is one of the 31 ILO conventions referred to above which are 
applied without modification in Hong Kong.  Wage rates in a few 
trades such as tailoring and carpentry are determined by 
collective bargaining, but most wages are set by market forces.

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 which may 
involve statutory benefits and protection in employment as well 
as arrears of wages, wages in lieu of notice, and severance 
pay.  The DOL assists employers and employees to reach amicable 
settlements but 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, although it takes a 
positive attitude toward the participation by trade unions in 
dispute negotiations.  The Labor Tribunal Ordinance provides 
that an office bearer of a registered trade union, who is 
authorized in writing by a claimant or defendant to appear as 
his representative, has the right of audience in the labor 
tribunal.

The law protects workers against antiunion discrimination.  
Employees who allege such discrimination have the right to have 
their cases heard by the DOL's Labor Relations Division.  
Violation of the antiunion discrimination provisions under the 
Employment Ordinance is a criminal offense carrying a maximum 
fine of $2,564.  However, employers are not required to 
reinstate or compensate an employee.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) 
has strongly criticized as inadequate Hong Kong's labor 
legislation because of its failure to protect the right to 
strike, and its provisions allowing dismissals and disciplinary 
action against striking trade unionists.  The Labor Tribunal 
adjudicates individual labor claims, purportedly to provide a 
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 130 days--to hear workers' cases.

There are few protections for almost 100,000 Filipino domestic 
workers who face deportation if dismissed by their employers 
and are thus vulnerable to abuse.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

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 businesses, subject to conditions aimed at 
ensuring a minimum of 9 years' education and protection of 
safety, health, and welfare.  During 1993 the Government 
launched 14 large-scale campaigns against the employment of 
children.  They found only five children who were working in 
violation of the law.  The Government successfully prosecuted 
four of these cases, with fines of around $370 levied in each 
case.

     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 market supply and demand.  Because of 
continued shortages in the labor market (unemployment was 
around 2 percent), wage increases were given to most workers, 
particularly those in the construction industry and service 
sectors.

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 15 to 17.  Work is limited to 8 
hours per day and 48 hours per week between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. 
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.  During 1993 the Labor Inspectorate conducted 
161,830 workplace inspections of about 160,000 establishments, 
resulting in 4,720 prosecutions.  The employment of underaged 
workers is 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 makes regular visits to 
high-risk areas such as factories and construction sites.  
During 1993 the Factory Inspectorate carried out 56,668 
inspections of factories and 13,947 inspections of 
constructions sites and issued 3,001 summonses.  Fines depended 
on the seriousness of the violation.  In 1994 several serious 
building collapses revealed the need for stronger government 
enforcement and inspection efforts.

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 and the inability of workers to elect their own 
safety representatives weaken the enforcement of safety and 
health standards in the workplace.  There is no specific legal 
provision allowing workers to remove themselves from dangerous 
work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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