Double standard on Hong Kong human rights

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 2:25am

Last month marked an important moment in Hong Kong's human rights history: a transsexual woman won her appeal at the Court of Final Appeal. I welcome such a brave decision and look forward to more liberal decisions in future.

With my experiences in Canada, the US and many places, I dare to say that Hong Kong citizens enjoy much more comprehensive human rights than those of many other places. Freedom House, an independent organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, recently reported that Hong Kong is perceived to enjoy a high level of civil liberties.

Therefore, I am surprised to see critical comments from the United Nations Human Rights Committee on Hong Kong's human rights in LC Paper No. CB (2)906/12-13(01), including on issues of rule of law and universal suffrage.

I am not persuaded by the writers' views, because they neither appreciate the real essence of the common law nor understand how rule of law works within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). I strongly believe that the ICCPR cannot be applied to its full extent blindly, without considering real-life situations.

The following are some examples whereby the ICCPR has given way to local laws or constitutions.

One is the case of Charles Ng, a Chinese-American, believed to have raped and murdered up to 25 victims in the 1980s. I am a close friend of Ng's family and I paid attention to the lengthy negotiation between the US and Canada.

At that time, Canadian law prohibited a prisoner's extradition to another country if the convicted faced the death penalty in the destination country. Despite this Ng was finally deported to the US where he is currently on death row.

Lai Changxing is another example. After a lengthy extradition battle and diplomatic negotiations between Canada and China, Lai was eventually deported to China and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without obtaining a mandate from the United Nations. Subsequently in a BBC interview, Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, criticised the invasion as illegal.

The above shows that even the US and Canada, two countries that champion the rule of law, do not strictly comply with the UN. I believe the UN is controlled by a few countries, including the US. While they take control of the UN and criticise other countries for not maintaining the highest standard, they themselves also fail to deliver what they promised when they signed the ICCPR.

Barry Chin, Central