Hong Kong’s human rights level ‘worst since 1997 handover’, Amnesty International says

The governments of Hong Kong and Beijing have been increasingly threatening the freedom and rights of people in Hong Kong, to the point where human rights in the SAR are in the worst state they have been since the 1997 handover, Amnesty International Hong Kong says.

In a new report released yesterday, the NGO cited the disappearance of local booksellers on the mainland as well as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s call for authorities to quit the United Nation’s convention against torture as main causes of concern for human rights in Hong Kong during 2016. The report also criticised Beijing’s and the CE’s intervention in the Legislative Council’s oath-taking saga, saying their acts violated Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

Incidents such as the harassment of local investigative news agency Factwire, who issued a report on the recall of defective China-made train carriages used in Singapore, and police allegedly beating a Ming Pao reporter during the Mong Kok riot during Chinese New Year were named as violations of press freedom and freedom of assembly, both which are enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. 

In terms of press freedom, Amnesty also referred to the government’s refusal to give digital media access to press briefings, interviews and other important events as an example of Hong Kong “lagging behind”.

Meanwhile, the report also highlighted individual incidents that are deemed harmful to Hong Kong’s human rights situation such as Chinese-language free TV channel ViuTV’s decision to self-censor its programme featuring two pro-independence guests, and the sexual assault case of a mentally-challenged woman, in which the man allegedly responsible was not being prosecuted as the victim was considered unfit for trial.

“It’s the worst year since the handover in the terms of rule of law and freedom of expression,” Yahoo quoted Amnesty International Hong Kong’s director Mabel Au as she told AFP.

The report said the Hong Kong government and civil servants should “make defending the rights of Hong Kong people their first priority” amid public concern that the government and politicians have sacrificed citizens’ rights for political gain.

Amnesty said it had not been able to reach the Hong Kong government since they last met in 2014 after releasing a report on migrant workers in the city. “If we do not do anything or we do not have any response from the government, we can’t project whether we are going to get worse,” Amnesty’s chairwoman Raees Baig told SCMP.


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