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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:12am
Universal Suffrage
NewsHong Kong

United Nations grills Hong Kong over right to vote

Human Rights Committee tells constitutional officials that universal suffrage means freedom to stand for election as well as to vote

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 5:17am

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has raised concerns over Hong Kong's prospects for universal suffrage and over its requests to the mainland to clarify the Basic Law on issues affecting right of abode, a pan-democrat said yesterday.

Press freedom was also on the agenda as the government was called to give account to the committee in Geneva, said Emily Lau Wai-hing of the Democratic Party who sat in on the six-hour hearing on Wednesday.

"The [UN] committee is very concerned about universal suffrage and when the chief executive and the legislative council will be fully directly elected," said Lau.

The [UN] committee is very concerned about universal suffrage and when the chief executive and the legislative council will be fully directly elected
Emily Lau Wai-hing of the Democratic Party

"They also want the administration to make it clear that election by universal suffrage does not only mean people having the right to vote, but it should also mean that people should have the right to stand for election," she added.

Lau said government representatives at the hearing, who included the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau's Undersecretary Lau Kong-wah and Permanent Secretary Chang King-yiu, were not very forthcoming with their answers.

"They just said they would start consulting the Hong Kong people at the right time," said Emily Lau.

The committee will issue a report on the hearing at the end of the month as part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by the colonial government in 1976.

Emily Lau said the committee spent a lot of time asking about government referrals to Beijing on interpreting the Basic Law. It is an issue that has arisen in an ongoing right of abode case brought by domestic helpers, with judges yet to deliver their decision on a government request to get clarification from the mainland.

The committee questioned what impact this would have on the rule of law and judicial independence. She added: "They also talked about the definitions of offences such as treason and subversion … which they think are very vaguely worded."

Lau added that the administration responded that they currently had no plans to review this.

Concerning press freedom, the committee cited the case of a reporter detained by the city's police after shouting out a question at then-president Hu Jintao about the events of June 4, 1989.

They also cited a letter sent by lawyers for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to the Hong Kong Economic Journal after a column linked him to triads.

And it asked whether RTHK, as a government department, could operate freely. Lau said the administration responded that RTHK has its own charter and did have editorial independence.


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This article is now closed to comments

Why United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) had never told British that British should have given the people of Hong Kong universal suffrage and vote when the British colony of Hong Kong. Please don’t tell me that UNHRC work for and pay by western countries.
Hong Kong now can vote in free and fair elections, they can protest and assembly under Chinese rule. Yet, ironically, Hong Kong today is more democratic or more freedom of speech than it was during the vast majority (perhaps the totality) of its time under British rule.
if Britain had had the option of ruling Hong Kong as long as it pleased, would you think that Hong Kong today be a full democracy? It is unlikely and Hong Kongese had never asked for the freedom of speech and democracy under Britain ruled. It is just like a herd of fattened lambs, the people of Hong Kong meekly accepted whatever British rulers’ decisions.

Now, the Basic Law on issues affecting right of abode is a issue internal to China and has nothing to do with UNHRC. Is this sound like western behind this or----?! Either UNHRC provide clear explanation of cause actions or a pan-democrat should clarify this. Again, I am Taiwanese originally and I am not taking sides. My comments are always based on the facts.
JenniePCChiang/江佩珍 03/16/13 美國
hard times !
I am overjoyed to learn that Untied Nations Human Rights Committee is concerned about our upcomig universal suffrages of our chief executive in 2017 and our legislature in 2020. The Committtee has pointed out that a geniune universal suffrage should let all qualified voters to vote while qualified candidates should have the right to stand for election.It shows its concern whether we Hongkongers would have our future chief executive and our lawmaekrs fully directly-elected. Besides,our freedom of press is another concern of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.Now it looks that the Committee is grilling our Leung administration (which appears to be indifferent towards a politcal reform by not having a consultation of it as soon as possible) and Beijing authorities as well. Bravo ! We will definitely fight for a geniune universal suffrage to the death.Nothing but a geniune universal suffrage will be acceptable ! That is for sure !!
HK had been condemned by UN & UK before hand-over! U need to go back for some facts, since I recall joining UK protests as a student in UK.
Our government representatives had little to say because our government demonstrates no concern to do more than the absolute minimum to scrape through on its obligations under the ICCPR and we know it's Beijing's intention to impose pre-conditions on candidature, so their lips were sealed.
No the UN didn't care very much when the British were here. But this is now and the Basic Law has a provision for universal suffrage. Are you proposing that we just tear up the Basic Law or ignore bits we don't like?
Yes the British were bad, but this is now. Hong Kong has been independent from the UK and under Chinese sovereignty for 16 years. jenniepc is simply trying to say no to universal suffrage and, as expected from a Taiwanese, no to the Basic Law by deflecting criticism on to past rulers of Hong Kong. For a populace such as those in Taiwan such unsophisticated methods might work, but Hong Kongers are not so easily distracted from the main issue.
Suprised at you Camel.
The hell? HK was a British colony because China LOST to the UK during the Opium War and no where was universal suffrage written in the treaty, and since you're Taiwanese, you can go to the Taiwan museum to check since the originals are now there (btw please give return them back to China)
In Basic Law Article 45 it states that universal sufferage is an eventual goal. Whether it is in 2017 or 200 years from now, it is written as a law. Beijing may continue to delay this for as long as possible according to this.
Use your imagination. If 2017 elections didn't come around, the 500,000-man march against Article 23 will look like a joke.
And what type of Taiwanese are you exactly? Indegenious or descended from supporters of the corrupt Nationalist Government who having lost to the Communists as a last resort decided to colonize and subjegate the indegenious population of Taiwan, beg at the feet of the USA and continue to deny the fact that Taiwan is a part of the PRC to the present day?
Stop trying to change the subject. If you really want yet another laborious and repetitive discussion on the British rule in Hong Kong, then write a letter to the SCMP. Alternatively take note of megafun's comment below and check your facts first. All reasonable people know that colonizing foreign countries is wrong. Many people in Hong Kong want universal suffrage, if you don't, then fine that is your perogative but just be honest and say so.
Mr. or Ms. bmr, Mar 16th 2013,
Do not get too excited, you should tolerate the views of others and be sure to check your spelling. I have a hard time to read your arguments. Now, are you a Hong Konger or another Blogger trying to destabilize Asian continent.
Answer your 1st part: I am 100% Taiwanese, not descended from Nationalist Government. I have the appearance of a Chinese, Europeans and Japanese.
Your 2nd part: bmr, do you have reading problem. Please carefully read the article again and see if I change any subjects or my comment not related to the article. Again, my comments are always based on the facts and please don’t be like a little barking dog sent by British empire.
JenniePCChiang/江佩珍 03/16/13 美國
I am just asking where the UN Human Rights Committee were when HK was a British colony.



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