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Title:  Hong Kong Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                               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. 
 
In 1995 following 17 rounds of unsuccessful talks between the United 
Kingdom and the People's Republic of China, the Hong Kong Government 
implemented legislation abolishing all appointed seats in the Hong Kong 
Legislative Council (LEGCO).  In September all 60 LEGCO seats were open 
to direct or indirect balloting for the first time.  An unprecedented 
number of independent and party-affiliated candidates entered the 
historic electoral contest.  Overall, the elections were free and fair--
only scattered complaints regarding voter registration and ballot 
counting were received. 
 
China has announced its intent to dissolve the 1995 LEGCO, district 
boards, and municipal councils in July 1997 when Hong Kong reverts to 
China, noting that it did not agree to the electoral rules adopted by 
the Hong Kong Government in 1994 for election to these bodies.  China 
further announced that a PRC-appointed preparatory committee will decide 
how to form the first post-1997 LEGCO. 
 
A well-organized police force maintains public order and is under the 
firm control of civilian authorities.  Some members of the police 
committed human rights abuses (see Section 1.c.). 
 
Hong Kong is a major regional and international trade and financial 
center.  It is the principal gateway for trade and investment with 
China.  The territory's free market economy operates on the basis of 
minimal government interference and a thriving private sector.  Per 
capita gross domestic product surpassed $21,000 in 1994 and continued to 
grow in 1995. 
 
Human rights activists, journalists, and concerned legislators 
criticized the Government for opposing major human rights initiatives, 
including the establishment of a human rights commission, 
antidiscrimination provisions in the law, and freedom of information 
legislation.  Human rights problems continued to include some instances 
of excessive use of force by the police, media self-censorship, 
limitations on citizens' ability to change their government, and 
violence and discrimination against women.  In June the United Kingdom 
and China signed an agreement on establishing Hong Kong's Court of Final 
Appeal after the 1997 transition, and LEGCO approved implementing 
legislation. 
 
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. 
 
There were at least four instances of death in police custody.  The 
authorities determined that three were suicides; the fourth is under 
investigation. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The law forbids torture and other extreme forms of abuse and stipulates 
punishment for those who break the law.  Disciplinary action can range 
from dismissal to warnings.  Criminal proceedings may be undertaken 
independently of the disciplinary process of the police force.  
Allegations of excessive use of force are investigated by the Complaints 
Against Police Office, whose work is in turn monitored and reviewed by 
the Police Complaints Council, a body comprised of members of the public 
appointed by the Governor.  The Government, however, continued to resist 
public calls for the creation of an independent body to investigate 
allegations of abuse by police.   
 
Although excessive use of force by police is not widespread, there are 
occasional complaints of force being used to coerce information or 
confessions during police interrogations.  Human rights monitors in Hong 
Kong are concerned that this may be a growing problem and have 
documented victims' complaints of beatings during interrogation and, in 
at least one case, the use of water torture in the 1994-95 period.  In 
1994 government officials reported 1,554 complaints against the police, 
of which only 2 were substantiated by the Police Complaints Council.  
Human rights groups contrast the relatively large number of complaints 
against the police with the very small number of cases substantiated by 
the Government to argue the need for revamping a system where the review 
process appears to favor the police. 
 
Although conditions vary among prisons, prison conditions generally 
conform to international standards. 
 
    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, among other things, an independent judiciary and trial by jury.  
The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and this is 
respected in practice.  According to the agreement signed by the United 
Kingdom and China in June, Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal will be 
established formally on July 1, 1997.  Incoming officials ("team 
designate") of the post-1997 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 
(SAR) will be responsible for setting up the court and selecting judges.  
The agreement, thus, grants a principal role in the court's 
establishment and membership to the Hong Kong SAR government. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law provides for the right of privacy, and the Government generally 
respects this right in practice.  The Independent Commission Against 
Corruption (ICAC) is vested with powers that are normally exercised only 
by a judicial officer.  Amendments to ordinances governing ICAC deprived 
it of the 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.  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.  Several ordinances 
permit restrictions of the press, but they are rarely imposed.  The Hong 
Kong Journalists Association continued to criticize the Government for 
not taking swift action to do away with these ordinances before 1997, 
warning that the post-June 1997 government might be more prone to invoke 
them. 
 
After intensive press coverage of violent demonstrations by Vietnamese 
boat people protesting their return to Vietnam in  1994, the Government 
changed procedures so that such transfers take place where it is 
difficult for the press to view the operation.  The media complained 
about this limitation on their ability to report. 
 
There are reliable indications that media self-censorship is a fact of 
life, particularly on issues considered to be sensitive to the PRC.  Two 
local television stations decided against airing a documentary on the 
removal of transplant organs from executed prisoners after Chinese 
officials expressed strong criticism of the program and its producers.  
Journalists and human rights groups also criticized the release of 
cartoonist Larry Feign from the South China Morning Post (SCMP) staff 
following published cartoons lampooning PRC leaders.  SCMP management 
explained Feign's release as part of an overall staff drawdown, but many 
Hong Kong journalists--including some on the SCMP staff--view the 
decision as politically motivated.  According to poll results published 
in February by Hong Kong University's Social Sciences Research Center 
(SSRC), most journalists believe that self-censorship remains a problem.  
A 1994 SSRC survey found that 88 percent of respondents believed that 
there was self-censorship in Hong Kong's media, with 57 percent 
indicating that self-censorship occurred where they worked.  
 
Journalists, human rights groups, and others have criticized the PRC for 
taking retaliatory action against Hong Kong businessman Jimmy Lai's 
business interests in China.  Lai's daily newspaper Apple, which began 
publishing in June 1995, and Next magazine, which began publishing in 
1990, have been critical of China.  A Hong Kong-based reporter and a 
photographer working for Next magazine were detained for several days in 
Fujian during China's missile tests near the Taiwan coast.  China also 
refused journalists' credentials to reporters working for Apple.   
 
The fate of Ming Pao reporter Xi Yang, arrested in 1994 and sentenced to 
12 years' imprisonment in China for stealing "state financial secrets," 
continues to have a chilling effect on his colleagues and others in Hong 
Kong.  On September 27, there was a demonstration at the Hong Kong 
offices of Xinhua news agency to protest his continued imprisonment in 
China.  The filming of demonstrators by the Hong Kong police raised 
criticism in the local press.  Journalists report that such self-
censorship is also increasing for commercial reasons, as Hong Kong-based 
media organizations which are expanding their ties to China seek to 
avoid offending the Chinese Government.  Following PRC objections to a 
Hong Kong government proposal to "corporatize" the government-owned 
Radio Television Hong Kong, there have been no further efforts by the 
Government to do so. 
 
Media and general public access to government information is strictly 
controlled.  The Government opposed freedom of  information legislation 
proposed by LEGCO members and instead decided that an administrative 
code of practice on access to government information should be 
developed.  Under the code, civil servants would be required to provide 
information held by the Government, unless there are valid reasons not 
to do so.  A pilot scheme to test the legal, practical, and resource 
implications arising from the code began in March.  By the end of 1996, 
the code will be extended to the entire Government. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
These freedoms are practiced without significant hindrance, although the 
amended Societies Ordinance requires people to notify the Societies 
Officer of the formation of a society.  The Societies Officer may 
recommend to the Secretary for Security prohibition of the operation or 
continued operation of a society if he reasonably believes that it 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's National People's 
Congress included 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.  Government policy and general 
practice ensure freedom of religion. 
 
   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. 
 
Hong Kong has never refused to accept nor pushed off Vietnamese boat 
people.  Refugee status was automatically accorded them prior to June 
1988.  However, since then asylum seekers have been screened to 
determine their status and held in prison-like detention centers 
awaiting resettlement in other countries or repatriation to Vietnam.  In 
fiscal year 1995, 2,566 persons took advantage of resettlement 
incentives offered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) and the Hong Kong Government and repatriated voluntarily to 
Vietnam.  These incentives were offered only until the end of 1995.  On 
May 12, 1992, the Hong Kong Government reached agreement with Vietnamese 
authorities on mandatory repatriation (the "Orderly Return Program") of 
those who have been denied asylum.  There were 860 people repatriated 
under the Orderly Return Program in 1994.  Under the program, people are 
randomly chosen from the  nonrefugee camp population and 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 airplane and accompany the flight to Vietnam. 
 
Some 23,000 people remain in Hong Kong camps, of whom about 1,500 are 
screened-in as refugees but who, for reasons of health or criminal acts, 
have not been resettled. 
 
Voluntary repatriation to Vietnam declined dramatically in the spring of 
1995 in the wake of both U.S. congressional and executive branch 
proposals that hold out the promise for resettlement of additional 
Vietnamese in the United States.  Hong Kong authorities continue to 
encounter physical resistance in the camps when attempting to remove 
those chosen for the Orderly Return Program flights.  There has been no 
recurrence of the level of violence seen in the April 1994 incident at 
Whitehead Detention Center.  Violence that has occurred has taken the 
form of rock throwing and assaults with homemade weapons. 
 
The number of illegal Chinese immigrants has been estimated by the Hong 
Kong Government to be 10,000.  Police sources state that the figure is 
much higher and the press estimates the number to be 24,000.  The 
Government continues to deport illegal Chinese immigrants back to the 
PRC at the rate of approximately 150 per day.  Only in those rare 
instances in which a person qualifies as a refugee under the terms of 
the International Agreement on the Status of Refugees is asylum 
afforded.  There are currently 240 ex-China Vietnamese illegal 
immigrants in Hong Kong.  The repatriation of these ethnic Vietnamese, 
who fled from China to Hong Kong, continued in 1995, generally without 
incident. 
 
A well-known Chinese labor organizer, Han Donfang, remains in Hong Kong.  
Chinese government authorities continued to refuse him entry into China 
as they have ever since his expulsion from China in August 1993. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Hong Kong is a free society, with most individual freedoms and rights 
protected by law and custom.  Although the Government has moved to 
democratize district and municipal boards and LEGCO, citizens of the 
territory do not have the right to change the government.  The Governor 
is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Crown.  He is advised 
on policy by the executive council which he appoints. 
 
The LEGCO enacts and funds legislation and also debates policy and 
questions the administration.  Although LEGCO'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 district and municipal board members were elected in 1994 and 1995, 
respectively.  In 1995 the Government implemented legislation which 
abolished all appointed seats in LEGCO.  In September 920,000 voters, by 
direct or indirect balloting, selected members to fill these seats.  
Candidates of all political persuasions participated in free and fair 
elections, although there were scattered complaints regarding voter 
registration and ballot counting in a few areas.  Out of a total of 60 
seats, there were 20 geographical constituency seats directly elected, 
10 seats selected by an election committee comprised of 283 locally 
elected officials, 9 seats selected by broad functional (occupational) 
constituencies, and 21 seats elected by more narrow functional groupings 
which disproportionately represent the economic and professional elites 
and violates the concept of one person-one vote, since voters in 
functional constituencies may vote both in a functional and geographic 
constituency.  Although the elections did not result in a fully 
representative, democratically elected government, they significantly 
increased voters' ability to influence government decisionmaking through 
a greater number of elected representatives.  The PRC has stated that it 
does not recognize the validity of the September LEGCO elections, and 
that the present LEGCO will "end/terminate" on June 30, 1997. 
 
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), in reviewing the 
application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 
(ICCPR) to Hong Kong, stated that the current electoral system does not 
conform to the Covenant.  The November 3, 1995 UNHRC report also 
criticized the structure of LEGCO, as changed under the recent electoral 
reforms, as still giving "undue weight to the views of the business 
community" and discriminating among voters "on the basis of property and 
functions."  The UNHRC, while noting the United Kingdom's reservation to 
the ICCPR on the application of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, took 
the view that "once an elected legislative council is established, its 
election must conform" to the ICCPR's call for direct popular election 
of all seats.  The Hong Kong Court of Appeal on November 24, 1995, ruled 
against two Hong Kong plaintiffs who challenged the Government on the 
legality of LEGCO functional constituencies under the terms of the 
Letters Patent and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. 
 
The Government is continuing efforts to replace Hong Kong Chinese in 
senior government positions and has publicly committed to fill all 
"principal official" posts with local officers before 1997.  As of April 
1995, 70 percent of the Government's top directorate-level jobs and 80 
percent of administrative and other senior management positions were 
filled by local staff.  Expatriates remain in key positions in the legal 
department and the judiciary where localization progress has been 
slower, with 64 percent of the legal and 46 percent of judiciary officer 
positions currently localized.  In addition, localization of mid-to-
upper ranks of the police force has been slow.  The Government's efforts 
to add Chinese to the Government were opposed by a group of expatriate 
government workers who undertook legal action against the Government, 
claiming they were being discriminated against under the provisions of 
the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.  The Hong Kong High Court on October 31 
ruled on the case, taking the position that most of the Government's 
localization arrangements were lawful. 
 
Women are playing a greater role in politics, with greater numbers 
running for public office in 1994 and 1995 than ever before.  In 1995 
women comprised 12 percent of LEGCO, 13 percent of the top Government 
directorate level posts, and 37 percent of Government administrative 
officers. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on 
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights currently applies to Hong Kong 
through the United Kingdom.  China has agreed to extend these agreements 
to Hong Kong beyond 1997, although it has indicated that it does not 
consider itself to be obligated to implement the requirements under the 
agreements since China is not a signatory.  In October the PRC-appointed 
Preliminary Working Committee's legal subgroup issued a statement which 
called for striking key sections from Hong Kong's Bill of Rights 
Ordinance (BOR), including those articles which incorporate the 
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights into Hong Kong 
law.  The subgroup also recommended that other public security 
ordinances amended to conform to the BOR be changed to restore the 
Government's original prerogatives under these laws.  The legal 
subgroup's statement was a recommendation, and to date no action has 
been taken to amend any section of the Bill of Rights. 
 
The UNHCR and nongovernmental human rights organizations have full 
access to Hong Kong's camps for Vietnamese boat people.   
 
Although the Government to date has interposed no official barriers to 
the formation of local human rights groups, some  human rights activists 
believe that provisions of the Societies Ordinance provide the legal 
means whereby a future government could do so. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
In 1994 some LEGCO members supported the introduction of 
antidiscrimination measures addressing the problems of sex, age, race, 
and age discrimination.  The Government opposed the legislation and 
instead introduced its own bills, both adopted in 1995, banning 
discrimination on the basis of sex and disability.   
 
The Chinese language has equal status with English in many government 
operations except in judicial proceedings.  To help remedy the situation 
in judicial proceedings, the Government has increased the number of 
directorate officers in the Legal Aid Department proficient in Chinese 
from three (out of nine) to seven and initiated a pilot scheme for 
simultaneous interpretation in some court proceedings. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence and discrimination against women remain significant problems in 
Hong Kong society.  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 which 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.  It also funds programs 
and services to stem domestic violence such as family life education 
counseling, a hotline service operated by the Social Welfare Department 
and nongovernmental organizations, 53 family service centers, 2 shelters 
for women and children, temporary housing, legal aid, and child 
protective services.  Many women, however, do not seek help when they 
have been victims of violence, and many instances of domestic violence 
are not reported because of cultural factors and the Government's 
failure to publicize information about the assistance and resources 
available.  Women's action groups continue to press for better legal and 
government protection for battered wives. 
 
Women face discrimination in areas of employment, salary, welfare, 
inheritance, and promotion (see Section 6.e.).  Discrimination on the 
basis of age, particularly in hiring practices, is openly practiced, and 
is not prohibited by law.   
 
   Children 
 
The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights 
and welfare through its well-funded systems of public  education, 
medical care, and protective services.  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.  Child labor is not a serious problem.  The Government 
remains committed to the human rights and welfare of children.  The 
International Covenant on the Rights of the Child was extended to Hong 
Kong by the United Kingdom in 1994.  In 1995 amendments to the law were 
adopted by LEGCO making it easier for abused children to give evidence 
in court.  Legal penalties for ill-treatment or neglect of minors were 
also substantially increased. 
 
   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 disabled.  Advocacy groups have urged the Government 
to do more to encourage greater public tolerance of the mentally 
disabled.  The Government has been responsive, undertaking programs 
aimed at fostering greater public acceptance of the disabled.  In 1995 
LEGCO passed the Antidiscrimination Law to protect the rights of the 
disabled.  This Law calls for changes to the building ordinance to 
improve building access for the disabled and sanctions for those who 
discriminate against the disabled. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 

Racial discrimination against Filipino women, 140,000 of whom work under 
contract in Hong Kong, has been the focus of news reports.  Also, 
despite official reassurance that Philippine workers would be welcome 
after 1997, reports indicate that employers of large numbers of 
Filipinos--hotels and the airport authority--are beginning to employ PRC 
Chinese instead.   
 
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 1994, 25 new trade unions were registered.  
Approximately 562,285 workers (or about 21 percent) out of a  total 
labor force of 3 million belong to the 548 registered unions, most of 
which belong to 1 of 3 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.  No application for such 
affiliation has so far been refused.  Hong Kong's two leading labor 
federations, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and the Hong Kong 
Confederation of Trade Unions, were active participants in the 
territory's September LEGCO elections. 
 
As a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong is not a 
member in its own right of the International Labor Organization (ILO).  
The United Kingdom 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 49 conventions.  In 
the Basic Law, China undertook to continue to adhere to these 
conventions after 1997. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The ILO convention on the right to organize and bargain collectively has 
been applied to Hong Kong without modification since 1975.  This 
convention does not obligate the Government to impose collective 
bargaining by statute.  There are no laws which stipulate collective 
bargaining on a mandatory basis.  Wage rates in a few trades like 
tailoring and carpentry are now determined collectively in accordance 
with established trade practices and customs rather than as a statutory 
mechanism. 
 
In practice, collective bargaining is not widely practiced.  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 instead of notice, and severance pay.  The DOL 
assists employers and employees in dispute to  reach amicable 
settlement, 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 towards the 
participation by trade unions in dispute negotiations.  The Labor 
Tribunal Ordinance provides that an officer 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 is highly critical 
of Hong Kong labor legislation's failure to protect the right to strike, 
and for its provisions allowing dismissals and disciplinary action 
against striking trade unionists.  Individual labor claims are 
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 130 
days--to hear workers' cases.  Labor unions and legislators also are 
concerned about government plans to allow increases in imported labor, 
fearing downward pressure on wages.  There are few protections for 
almost 152,000 Filipino, Thai, and Indonesian 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 
 
Existing labor legislation prohibits forced labor, and it is not 
practiced. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The Employment of Children Regulations prohibit employment of children 
under age 15 in any industrial establishment.  Children ages 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 1995 the 
Government continued inspections to safeguard against the employment of 
children.  As in past years, few violations were found. 
 
    e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There is no minimum wage except for foreign domestic workers.  In 1995 
the minimum wage for such workers was US$480(HK$3,750) a month.  Because 
the law requires employers of domestic labor to provide such workers 
with housing, worker's compensation insurance, and meals or a meal 
allowance, this wage is sufficient to provide a worker with a decent 
standard of living.  
 
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.  Despite higher unemployment (the unemployment rate in the Fall 
was 3.5 percent), wage increases were given to most workers.  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 for young people age 
15 to 17.  Work hours for young people are limited to 8 per day and 48 
per week between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.  Women are permitted to work only 
between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m; 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 age 18 in industrial establishments.  The regulations also 
prohibit women and young persons from working underground or, with the 
exception of males age 16 and 17, in dangerous trades.  The Labor 
Inspectorate conducts workplace inspections to enforce compliance with 
these regulations.  During 1994 there were 8,102 prosecutions for 
breaches of various ordinances and regulations.  Fines totaling $3.8 
million were imposed.  The employment of underage workers is generally 
not a serious problem. 
 
The DOL Factory Inspectorate Department (FID) 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 such sites.  During 1994, 78,621 inspections including 5,733 accident 
investigations were conducted.  DOL officials acknowledged that 
accidents in construction and service sectors remain very high.  Apart 
from routine inspections, the FID also expanded special inspections.  
During these campaigns 23,166 factories, 318 catering establishments, 
and 1,295 construction sites were  inspected, resulting in 1,571 
summons.  Fines were varied, depending on the seriousness of the 
violation.  There is continued need for stronger government enforcement 
and inspection efforts. 
 
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 employment. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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