Government insists exemptions to UN rights covenant still apply
The government has released its response to criticisms by the UN Human Rights Committee about universal and equal suffrage for the Legislative Council, right of abode, media independence and investigation of complaints against the police.
The report, sent during the summer to the UN panel, covers Hong Kong's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A human rights groups called the report 'the most insincere and carefree' it had seen in more than 10 years.
In response to criticisms of the Legislative Council election system, the report stated: 'For proper perspective, it should be pointed out that, when the covenant was applied to Hong Kong in 1976, a reservation was made not to apply article 25(b) in so far as it might require the establishment of an elected Executive or Legislative Council in Hong Kong. This reservation continues to apply.'
Article 25(b) of the covenant points to the need for every citizen to have the right 'to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage ... guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors'.
The report also stated that the pace of Hong Kong's democratic progress was set by the central government rather than the covenant.
'The final goal of Hong Kong's evolution towards democracy originates from the Basic Law, and not the covenant. Both the central authorities and the government are fully committed to achieving the ultimate aim of universal suffrage in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant interpretation and decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of April 2004,' it said.
But the UN committee's view was that an elected Legislative Council was already established. It argued that its election must conform to Article 25 by abolishing functional constituencies.
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor said the government was basically telling the UN in the document that it would maintain its position regardless of international condemnation. 'The report is severely lacking in sincerity. It is also among the thinnest I have seen for more than a decade - simply for the reason that the government has no progress whatsoever to report on,' the group's director, Law Yuk-kai, said.