Human rights 'are not a luxury'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2002, 12:00am

A legislator has criticised security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee for treating human rights as a 'luxury' by saying that rights advocated by the Catholic Church might only exist in heaven.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee also urged the Government to exercise its discretionary power in handling abode cases more often.

During a forum with youngsters last month, Secretary for Security Mrs Ip said a balance must be struck between human rights and the rule of law.

Ms Ng said: '[It is] as if the two were opposed to each other, instead of the protection of the rights of the individual being an accepted objective of the rule of law. This kind of statement is possible only on a distorted view of human rights as a luxury and of the rule of law as a relentless use of the law by the Government as a weapon for social control,' Ms Ng said in RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong.

Commenting on the Catholic Church's plea for the right of families in abode cases to be reunited, Mrs Ip has said such things might be rights in heaven, but not on Earth.

Ms Ng, who raised the abode issue with a United Nations committee in Geneva last week, said the committee members were surprised by the Government's attitude towards human rights.

In a statement, the Government said family reunion was not an absolute right.

It said the Immigration Director could not exercise discretionary power in all cases, saying it would be unfair to those waiting in the queue. 'It will also lead to the collapse of our entire immigration regime,' a Government spokesman said.

Director of Immigration Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said more right of abode claimants had volunteered for Government repatriation over the past month. He said 150 mainlanders had been sent back voluntarily since the grace period following the final court ruling against them expired at the end of March.