UN rights review gives Hong Kong a chance to uphold core values
- Every state that made a recommendation on Hong Kong can receive the same from China when they come under review
- Dismissing UPR recommendations from foreign governments as interference undermines Hong Kong’s objectives as “Asia’s World City”
For the first time, Hong Kong was singled out by 12 countries through recommendations, statements and questions in advance at the five-yearly United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing of China, incorporating Hong Kong and Macau, on November 6 (“In UN first, Hong Kong’s human rights situation singled out from China’s”, November 7).
The UPR hearing was significant. Five years ago, when the hearing was last held, not one recommendation mentioned Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong UPR Coalition, an alliance of 45 civil society organisations, was glad to see the discussion generated by the hearing and our subsequent press conference on November 7. However, we would like to address some points in Alex Lo’s column of November 8 on the UPR (“The West’s hypocrisy over Hong Kong’s human rights”.)
As Mr Lo notes, the human rights records of western nations are not perfect. Countries such as Australia, France and Canada all have human rights problems. Nevertheless, that does not make their recommendations less valid. All countries should receive international scrutiny for their human rights records.
Thankfully, the UPR process provides the opportunity to do just that. The UPR is a peer review mechanism. Every state that made a recommendation on Hong Kong can receive recommendations from China when they come under review.
Civil society has an important role to play in the UPR, as an interface between the international community, local citizenry, residents and the government. Over the last year, we have sought meetings with principal officials and civil servants, while promoting measures to increase transparency and accountability. Meaningful engagement is necessary to deliver outcomes that will benefit Hong Kong people.
In promoting Hong Kong as “Asia’s World City”, it is touted as having “a global outlook”, which is “diverse and tolerant”. Dismissing UPR recommendations from foreign governments as interference only undermines those objectives.
The seven recommendations on Hong Kong from the UPR hearing cover fundamental rights issues, incorporating Hong Kong’s core values. For example, Croatia recommended to legislate domestically to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
To date, the Hong Kong government has not taken substantive action to implement this convention, including legislating for the best interests of the child. Legislating to implement the convention would go towards building an open, inclusive and diverse society.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to “connect”. It is time that the administration lived up to that commitment. The coalition urges the Hong Kong government to accept the UPR recommendations and work collaboratively with civil society to implement them.
Simon Henderson, spokesperson, Hong Kong UPR Coalition, senior policy adviser, Justice Centre Hong Kong