MEMBERS of a United Nations human rights committee last night made clear they would do their best to ensure freedoms in Hong Kong after 1997. The 17-strong committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Geneva said it saw no reason why the reporting of the human rights situation in Hong Kong should not continue after 1997. Andreas Mavrommatis from Cyprus said: 'We here on this committee share the same views as you and we will do our very best for you.' His comments came as five legislators and representatives of seven human rights groups made their first submissions to the committee, which will begin questioning the Hong Kong Government today. Under the covenant, the British Government is required to make periodic reports to the UN on human rights in Hong Kong. The Joint Declaration says the covenant will continue to apply to the territory after 1997, but China has not signed the covenant. Nisuke Ando, the Japanese member of the committee, said the UN would have to find the path of least resistance with China but he was sure the covenant should continue to apply. A third member, Raj Soomer Lallah, from Mauritius, said once the covenant had been brought in to cover human rights, there was no time limit and he could not see why it should not continue in force even after 50 years of the SAR's existence. The pledge came after a plea from the five Hong Kong legislators. 'We would like the UN to continue to scrutinise Hong Kong's track record after 1997,' said group leader Emily Lau Wai-hing. Ms Lau said the difficulty was that China had said it would not submit a report to the UN because it was not a party to the covenant. 'But then China has signed a Joint Declaration which says that there will be reporting to the UN after 1997,' she said. Ms Lau said either China or the future Special Administrative Region government could make the reports. The five-member Legislative Council team was despatched to Geneva following a decision by the House Committee last week. Under their remit, the members are not allowed to raise human rights issues beyond those of continued monitoring and reporting. The formal two-day hearings of the committee begin today with Solicitor-General Daniel Fung representing the Hong Kong Government. The British Government in July presented its latest report on human rights in the territory to the UN committee, which will present a report on Hong Kong in November. The committee is chaired by a Costa Rican, Francisco Aguilar Urbina, and comprises lawyers and academics. Several have been on the human rights committee since it last examined the position in Hong Kong in 1991 and the territory organisations present at the hearings were yesterday delighted at their knowledge of the territory. Seven organisations are each submitting their own reports on Hong Kong to the committee, but spent much of their time lobbying members so that they can question the Hong Kong Government. The committee examines countries on a five-year cycle. Unless there is a change of plan this will be the last time it looks at Hong Kong before the handover. Johannes Chan, of the Bar Association, said these groups would like to see the UK Government submit a report to the UN next year so there could be another hearing in March 1997.