DECEMBER 10, Human Rights Day, will again see the spotlight on abuse of human rights. Today governments of every cast - left and right, democracy and dictatorship - are guilty of horrific crimes against their own people. Even while they profess a respect for human rights, world governments continue to inflict outrages upon the rich and poor, famous and unknown, political dissidents and average citizens, women, men, and even children. In the revulsion against the atrocities of World War II, the world began to create a formal machinery to protect of human rights - global laws to affirm the value of the individual person, and global institutions to enforce these laws. Regrettably, this machinery has not been as effective as it should be. Until it is made stronger, one essential alternative exists. The alternative of aroused public opinion - the indignation of concerned people everywhere. In Hong Kong, there are just a couple of membership-based human rights groups and one such group is the Hong Kong Section of Amnesty International, of which I have been a member of for many years. The group is part of the movement which has a worldwide membership of more than a million people. Amnesty has shown that an international human rights movement can be effective, that many people working together can make a difference, that change can happen. You may ask why should people in Hong Kong be interested in the international aspect of human rights? Hong Kong is increasingly becoming a more active player in the international arena, building trading and travel links with many of the governments thatcarry out abuses. And whichever corner of the globe you travel to these days, someone will show concern about Hong Kong and 1997. Many misconceptions surround the work of Amnesty International and people often perceive Amnesty as a political organisation. However, it cannot be stressed enough that the group is apolitical. Amnesty does not take sides in political conflicts. Ideologies, national barriers and local legal codes are no obstacle to speaking out on behalf of others. So what is Amnesty's mandate? It demands of governments everywhere that they: Release all prisoners of conscience (people confined because of their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, or language, who have not used or advocated violence). Give all prisoners whose cases have a political aspect a fair trial within a reasonable time. Abolish the death penalty, torture, and other cruel treatment of prisoners. End all extra-judicial executions and ''disappearances''. Amnesty also condemns, as a matter of principle, the torture and execution of prisoners, as well as deliberate and arbitrary killings and hostage taking by opposition groups. Amnesty International's mandate is at times seen as controversial but what we are asking for is simply: A world without torture cells. A world without the electric chairs, firing squads and the noose. A world without jails full of prisoners of conscience. A world where people are not forced to flee their own home because the state plans to kidnap and murder them. A world where every person will have security, freedom, and a decent human existence. Amnesty believes that change can happen. What is needed to achieve this vision are the voices of ''ordinary'' people. What can Amnesty International members do? Amnesty is a campaigning organisation whose members: Create publicity that turns the spotlight of abuse on to target governments. Send masses of letters, faxes and postcards appealing directly to the target government's senior officials. Lobby government officials to ask them to add their voice to call for improvements in human rights. (Amnesty has recently met the Governor and written to all Legislative Council members.) Reach out to influential business groups and individuals in the community and invite them to lend their voices to the campaign. Hold dramatic, symbolic events that will grab people's attention and mobilise them to support these efforts. Ask people to donate money and materials that not only will help keep the campaign going, but will strengthen the independence and credibility of its message. These different activities complement and reinforce each other. Since the ultimate goal is to create pressure to help the victims of human rights abuse, every one of these is a real human rights task. People often question Amnesty International Hong Kong's role in respect to China. As happens with all Amnesty sections around the world, we have what is called the ''work on own country rule''. In the Hong Kong Section's case the ''own-country rule'' has- for obvious reasons - been extended to the People's Republic of China. In essence, Amnesty members do not, in their capacity as group members, assess or act upon information about human rights abuses in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Britain and Macau. The purpose of this rule is to maintain the movement's independence and impartiality. But, that doesn't mean that they can do nothing for Hong Kong in their capacity as an Amnesty member. Over the years Amnesty members have identified many ways where they can contribute to bettering human rights situations in their own country. One such endeavour is in the field of human rights education. Amnesty members in Hong Kong give numerous talks at schools, colleges and universities. We hope to support the valuable work of other groups in this area with our Human Rights Education Charitable Trust Fund, which was established in June. During our recent meeting with the Governor we asked that the Hong Kong Government support more programmes that teach human rights in schools, to public officials and the police. Earlier this year Hong Kong saw the removal of the death penalty from its statute books - a move which had long been called for by Amnesty members here. Currently we are pressing the Government to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Child and CEDAW. We also support the call to establish a human rights commission, and will campaign to bring domestic laws into line with international human rights standards. All these efforts can only be strengthened if we have more support from the public. The Hong Kong Office of Amnesty International stocks and distributes Amnesty reports on every country of the world, including Hong Kong and China. It is often asked whether human rights are a luxury, especially in societies that are trying to cope with serious problems such as like poverty and hunger. But as Amnesty International's Secretary General, Pierre Sane, said stated at the World Conferenceof Human Rights in June: of this year, ''The issue is not whether torture is more important then starvation . . . but that human rights are universal and indivisible.'' Do Amnesty's efforts really make a difference? Amnesty has a record of concrete achievement. The organisation believes this is true because the people it has been trying to help say that its pressure has had an impact. Amnesty does not claim that itsletters and publicity have been solely responsible for these improvements, but over the years, Amnesty has received many letters and testimonies from prisoners, former prisoners, or relatives that Amnesty takes its encouragement from: ''Your efforts . . . saved my life . . .'' - Lee Shim-bom, South Korea ''Amnesty International . . . gave me the chance of a new and truly human existence.'' - Dr Jan Mlynarik, Czechoslovakia. Over the next few days, Amnesty will show how vital it is that we get more people in Hong Kong involved - now.