Secrecy of report on rights riles lobbyists

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 November, 1997, 12:00am

Pressure groups yesterday attacked the Government for keeping secret a report on human rights, destined for the United Nations, which has already been sent to Beijing for approval.

The report, on whether Hong Kong lives up to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), will be the first on human rights treaties to be presented after the handover.

Although the draft report by the Hong Kong Government has been submitted to the central Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, non-government organisations and the Equal Opportunities Commission have been told they cannot see it until it is presented to the UN in March.

Dr Fanny Cheung Mui-ching, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said she would ask for a copy immediately.

'It is very important that the views of the Equal Opportunities Commission are included,' she said, adding that, if necessary, the commission would submit a rival report.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said the practice was similar to that operated before the handover.

He said: 'The Equal Opportunities Commission is not part of the SAR Government. It is an independent statutory body. It is free to submit its views to the United Nations after the publication of the SAR Government's initial report to CEDAW.' Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, said withholding the report was a deliberate tactic that 'hampers our operations and reduces our effectiveness'.

He said pressure groups were not able to find out which aspects of policy the Government had glossed over and which, therefore, needed challenging.

Tsang Gar-yin, executive secretary of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, said: 'They just want to paint a good picture of the situation in Hong Kong.' Mr Law said with previous international human rights reports, the Government had at least told pressure groups of the section headings, but even this practice had stopped.

'There is a kind of regression here,' he said.

The writing of the report was the only pledge on sexual equality made in Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's policy speech.

It will be presented to a special UN committee in March. Hearings could take place in the summer.