A UNITED NATIONS committee last night sharply criticised Hong Kong over human rights and social and housing conditions. In a report urging China to continue to report to the UN on human rights in Hong Kong after 1997, the committee called for an end to the 'caged men' homes and a change in immigration laws to end episodes like the Hai Ho-tak incident. The report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said there would be 'some technical and legal problems' if China were to continue reporting to the UN as Britain did now. But the committee stressed the 'very important role' of the reporting process in maintaining human rights. China is not a signatory to the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. And although Britain believes it should continue reporting to the world body after 1997 because the covenant is built into the Basic Law and Joint Declaration, Chinese officials have so far said they are not obliged to do so. The 18-member committee - critical of a government team led by Solicitor-General Daniel Fung which presented its evidence last month - noted that 'uncertainties arising from the transfer of sovereignty' had resulted in a reluctance on the part of the Hong Kong Government to protect human rights to the fullest degree. The committee also criticised the apparent low level of awareness of international human rights law among the Hong Kong Judiciary. It said it was concerned at the way a human rights commission was rejected, and urged the Government to let the Legislative Council decide whether there should be one. The UN also wants the Hong Kong Government to reconsider the case of Ho-tak, the six-year-old boy forced out of the territory to live with friends of his family in Guangzhou. The committee was 'particularly disturbed' by the problem of split families in the territory, especially where husbands and wives and their children were forced apart. Hong Kong immigration law was inconsistent with the territory's obligations under the covenant, it said. The committee said it was 'deeply concerned' at the treatment of Vietnamese asylum-seekers in the territory. It called on the Government to ensure children in refugee camps - or those released from them - enjoyed full rights. It wanted to see closer co-operation between voluntary agencies and the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees. Committee members were scathing in their condemnation of conditions suffered by the 'caged' men. 'The committee deplores the plight of persons - most of whom are elderly - living in sub-human conditions in 'cage homes',' it said. It considered the Government's inaction over them 'unacceptable' given its 'abundant financial resources'. It called on the problem to be eradicated as a 'matter of high priority' and for people living under these conditions to be given adequate and affordable housing. Other criticisms dwelt on low social security payments to the elderly and health problems faced by that sector of the community.