Compared to the kind of human rights abuses the United Nations is accustomed to hearing, Hong Kong is a beacon of light in a darkened world. But there have been several breaks in the beam since the handover, hence the large number of submissions to the meeting that begins tomorrow. Members of The Frontier, the Human Rights Monitor and the Society for Community Organisation have set off to present their case, supported by submissions from the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, the local branch of the International Commission of Jurists and the Christian Institute. The Government's submission will be presented by a 10-strong delegation. But this time it is the new participants in the ritual that have attracted most attention. The One Country, Two Systems Research Institute hopes to stop democratic groups 'misleading' international opinion and 'badmouthing' Hong Kong. Members have enlisted their executive director, Shui Sin-por, along with former solicitor-general Daniel Fung Wah-kin, to present another side of the story. Mr Fung's view on the reinterpretation of the Basic Law by the National People's Congress naturally carries some weight. He supports the reinterpretation, and has firmly rejected the inevitable suspicion that he goes to Geneva as part of a quasi-government deputation. But even if that were so, it would not alter the outcome of the UN hearing. The committee will form its conclusions on the facts. It will take into account the views of the delegates, and it is right that they should hear all the arguments, including those of independent groups that have full confidence in the way the SAR is run. But it has only one brief, and that is to judge how the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have been applied since the handover. The administration and its supporters may be challenged to present some of the changes to the system since July 1997 in a positive light. To take one example: a legal decision in which 'public interest' is cited as a reason for the non-prosecution of one participant in a fraud case will be extremely hard to justify against Article 26 of the covenant, which says that all persons are equal before the law. Not even those accused of 'badmouthing' would suggest this is a society in which people fear the midnight knock on the door, or dare not express dissenting views. But there is no denying the roll-back in democratic institutions in the past two years. And it is the groups prepared to defend the promised freedoms that provide the checks and balances by which society thrives.