Watchdog delivers covenant warning

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong will fail in its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights if proposed changes to the laws on rights to freedom of assembly and association become law, according to Amnesty International.

In a report entitled Basic Rights at Risk issued yesterday, the group said some of the proposed changes would 'significantly weaken safeguards for human rights in Hong Kong'.

It said it was essential the Chief Executive-designate's office publish an official explanation of why, and the extent to which, sections of the human rights ordinances contravened the Basic Law.

The consultation period should then be extended to allow time for consideration of the explanation given, it said.

It called on the National People's Congress Standing Committee and the Special Administrative Region government to declare that all other laws, which have been found not to contravene the Basic Law, do conform with that law.

Amnesty urged Mr Tung to provide unambiguous definitions of terms such as national security and public safety.

On the Societies Ordinance, it expressed concern that human rights activists would be hampered by legislation which could put at risk the continued existence of certain non-governmental bodies through a registration process.

The proposed amendments would to some extent restore the regulatory regime of societies to its pre-1992 state, it said. 'This has been found in the past not to accord with the covenant.' Amnesty called for a registration system under which the authorities would have to make the imposition of any restrictions consistent with the covenant.

The powers of the Societies Officer and the police commissioner should be limited so that he or she would not be authorised to prevent legitimate activities protected by the covenant, it said. The phrase 'necessary in a democratic society' should be included to describe limits on the powers of the Societies Officer and the police commissioner.