45 civil groups decry Hong Kong’s ‘deteriorating rule of law and human rights environment’ in UN submission
By Kris Cheng
A group of 45 civil society organisations have submitted more than 100 suggestions to the United Nations relating to Hong Kong’s “deteriorating rule of law and human rights environment.”
The joint submission was made to the UN Human Rights Council for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on China, which will take place in November and will be attended by Hong Kong government officials. The last UPR was held in 2013, and the groups suggested that a lot has changed in Hong Kong since then.
“The increasing erosion of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong will be under the international spotlight in the coming months. The UPR is an opportunity for the government to show it is serious in upholding its human rights obligations,” said Simon Henderson, the spokesperson for the coalition of civil groups.
Henderson said that the review on Hong Kong is considered part of China’s, but although the UN made 300 suggestions relating to China in 2013, none were made for Hong Kong. He said it was the first time Hong Kong groups had come together to provide such a large number of suggestions.
The coalition includes concern groups on disabilities, gender recognition, freedom of speech, gay rights, domestic worker rights, environment, open data and ethnic minorities, among others.
“The submission provides a roadmap of specific, measurable and achievable recommendations for Hong Kong to abide by its human rights commitments and restore its international standing. Many reflect long outstanding recommendations by the United Nations which the Hong Kong government has ignored,” Henderson said.
The groups called upon the government to adopt a comprehensive human rights ordinance to incorporate all international human rights treaties that apply to Hong Kong in domestic legislation. It should also amend the Public Order Ordinance – including sections on disorder in public places and unlawful assembly – to ensure it is in line with international regulations.
They said the government should only propose the national security law after universal suffrage has been fully implemented, to ensure it fully complies with international standards.
Sustainability Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Hong Kong, as a chapter of the global SDSN of the United Nations, was launched on Monday.
It aims to mobilize expertise, information and resources from academia, philanthropy, government, business and nonprofits to respond to challenges of sustainable development at both local and global scales.
Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said at the launching ceremony at the Chinese University of Hong Kong that HKSAR government is fully committed to sustainable development, especially its three main dimensions, namely economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection.
She noted that SDSN Hong Kong will connect stakeholders from various sectors forming a global network for the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge for the development of innovative ideas and practical solutions to sustainable development.
"Such connection is set to benefit Hong Kong, other members of the network, and the sustainable development of the world," Lam said.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of SDSN of the United Nations, delivered a keynote speech and called for international cooperation to achieve sustainable development goals.
"We are launching a partnership of great significance. I am deeply confident that we will contribute to Hong Kong's well-being, but I also especially excited that, through the collaborative partnership, Hong Kong will contribute to global well-being," Sachs said.
Published on Xinhuanet on January 8, 2018
By Gabriela Baczynska
European Union countries urged Poland's nationalist-minded government on Tuesday to address concerns that it is undermining democratic checks and balances, in a dispute that has highlighted growing tensions between western and eastern Europe.
In the first such debate among EU ministers of the 28-nation bloc, Poland accused Brussels of trying to impose its views by "diktat" but only Hungary took Warsaw's side.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, opened an unprecedented probe in January 2016 into perceived threats to the rule of law in Poland. The Commission's Vice President Frans Timmermans has spent more than a year exchanging letters and issuing recommendations that Warsaw has refused to heed.
"There was broad agreement around the table today that rule of law is a common responsibility and we should continue dialogue with Poland," Timmermans, a Dutchman, told reporters after the discussions.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said Warsaw shared the EU's commitment to the rule of law, but denied that its policies undermined it.
"The conclusions of the meeting are that the dialogue should continue, which we agree with, and that the EU is a union of values where the rule of law plays an important role. We are in complete agreement with that as well," Szymanski said.
"But we do not agree with interpretations presented by the European Commission... A one-sided expectation that we will implement recommendations is not dialogue but diktat."
Poland's conservative, eurosceptic ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), has brought the judiciary and public media under more direct state control, prompting concerns among political opponents and rights groups that it is infringing basic rights and freedoms and also the constitutional separation of powers.
Szymanski sought to present the dispute as one between Warsaw and the Commission, but a majority of member states including heavyweights Germany, France and Italy backed the Brussels-based executive.
Belgium and France suggested that Poland should face consequences if it does not change tack. Many said the case should be discussed among all EU states again.
"This is a clear signal. The Polish government should not think nobody cares and that they can get away with whatever," one EU diplomat said.
Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a close ally of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, backed Poland in Tuesday's debate, while the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania remained neutral. Britain, which hopes to retain good ties with Poland after it quits the EU, also avoided direct criticism.
Poland's dispute with the Commission is part of broader tensions between the more affluent western EU states such as Germany and the ex-communist easterners over issues such as immigration and the handling of asylum-seekers.
If Warsaw refuses to budge, the EU could theoretically strip it of voting rights in the bloc but this would require unanimity and Hungary would probably veto such a step.
But a prolonged impasse could reinforce western European states' push to deepen integration among themselves and also sap their willingness to pay generously for the development of eastern European economies and infrastructure.
Poland is now the biggest beneficiary of such spending.
Published on Reuters on May 16, 2017.