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The Rights of the Individual

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Human Rights

Human rights cover many areas of Government activity and no one bureau can undertake responsibility for all of them. There is therefore a need for a co-ordinating function to enable the Government to make a coherent assessment of the way in which human rights are implemented in practice. That role had been the responsibility of the Home Affairs Bureau since 1993, when the Bureau conducted a government-wide review of all legislation in the light of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (BORO) (pdf). The review led to the amendment of some forty legal provisions. Now, all legislation that predates the BORO conforms with its provisions. So too must all new legislation.

Following the re-organization of the Government Secretariat with effect from 1 July 2007, matters relating to human rights have now been placed under the purview of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB).

Human Rights Reporting

The United Nations Human Rights Council conducts a Universal Periodic Review on the human rights situation of all member states of the United Nations. The HKSAR's report was submitted to the UN as part of China's report in November 2008. The related hearing was held on 9 February 2009. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2009. The HKSAR's report (Second Cycle) was submitted to the UN as part of China's report in August 2013, and the related hearing was held on 22 to 25 October that year.

A total of 15 United Nations human rights treaties apply to Hong Kong. Seven entail a reporting requirement. The treaties that do not entail that requirement are at Annex. The treaties that do so are the :

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (DOC): formerly reports were required every five years but this changed to a "case by case basis" in 1999. The HKSAR's first report in the light of the Covenant was submitted to the UN in early 1999 and was heard by the UN Human Rights Committee in November that year. The HKSAR's second report in the light of the Covenant was submitted to the UN in January 2005 and the related hearing was held on 20 and 21 March 2006. The HKSAR's third report in the light of the Covenant was submitted to the UN in 2011 and the related hearing was held on 12 and 13 March 2013.

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (DOC): reports are required every five years. The HKSAR's first report under the Covenant was submitted to the UN in mid 1999 and was heard by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the end of April in 2001. The HKSAR's second report under the Covenant was submitted to the UN as part of China's initial report in June 2003. The related hearing was held during the Committee's 34th session, between 27 (pm) and 29 April 2005. The HKSAR's third report under the Covenant was submitted to the UN as part of China's second report in June 2010. The related hearing was held during the Committee's 52nd session on 8 May 2014.

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) (DOC): reports are required every two years. The HKSAR's first report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in late 2000 as part of China's combined eighth and ninth reports. It was heard by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 31 July and 1 August 2001. The HKSAR's second report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in June 2008 as part of China's combined tenth to thirteenth reports. The related hearing was held on 7 and 10 August 2009. The HKSAR's third report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in January 2017 as part of China's combined fourteenth to seventeenth reports.

  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) (DOC): reports are required every four years. The HKSAR's first report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in mid 1999 as part of China's third report. It was heard by the UN Committee Against Torture in May 2000. The HKSAR's second report under the Convention was submitted to the UN as the second part of China's fourth and fifth reports in February 2006. The related hearing was held during the Committee's 41st session in November 2008. The HKSAR's third report was submitted to the UN as part of the Sixth Report of the People's Republic of China in June 2013. The related hearing was held during the Committee's 56th session on 17 and 18 November 2015.

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (DOC): reports are required every five years. The HKSAR's first report under the Convention was submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as part of China's second report in June 2003. The Committee heard the report during its 40th session between 19 and 20 September 2005. The second report of the HKSAR was submitted to the UN in July 2010 as part of the Combined Third and Fourth Reports of the People's Republic of China and was published by the UN in May 2012. The related hearing was held during the Committee’s 64th session on 26 and 27 September 2013.

  • Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): reports are required every four years. The HKSAR's first report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in 1998 as part of China's combined third and fourth reports. It was heard by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in January/February 1999. The HKSAR's second report under the Convention was submitted to the UN as part of China's combined fifth and sixth reports in 2004. The hearing was held in August 2006. The HKSAR's third report under the Convention was submitted to the UN as part of China's combined seventh and eighth reports in 2012. The related hearing was held in October 2014. Please refer to the thematic web page on CEDAW under the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) for further information.

  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): Reports are required every four years, after the submission of the initial report. The HKSAR's initial report under the Convention was submitted to the UN in August 2010 as part of China's initial report. The hearing was held in September 2012. Please refer to the thematic web page on CRPD under LWB for further information.

  • We draft Hong Kong's reports under all these treaties except the CEDAW and CRPD, which are under the responsibility of LWB. (The responsibility for CEDAW was transferred to the then Health, Welfare and Food Bureau in May 2000).

  • Before drafting our reports, we seek the views of NGOs and other members of the public. To that purpose, we publish an outline of the report, setting out the topics for discussion and ask the public to comment on our performance in those areas and suggest other topics for inclusion.

Hearing of Reports

HKSAR teams attend the hearings of our reports as part of the relevant Chinese delegation, except in the case of the ICCPR which they attend in their own right by special arrangement between the Central People's Government and the UN. At the hearings, delegates answer questions put to them by the UN Committees. Thereafter, we are responsible for publicising the Committees' concluding observations. Exceptions are the CEDAW and CRPD, responsibility for which lies with the LWB. Before and after the hearings, relevant Panel of the Legislative Council usually convenes special meetings at which representatives of Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) exchange views on the issues with Legislative Councillors.

Human Rights Forum

The Human Rights Forum has its origins in the NGO briefings that we hold during the consultations that we hold prior to drafting our reports under the UN human rights treaties. The purpose of those briefings is to inform interested organisations of the form and procedure of the reporting process and to encourage them to submit views in writing. The briefings continue but, in recent years, participants have expressed the wish for more regular meetings with the Government in which discussion would focus on substantive human rights issues. Against this background, the first meeting of the Forum was held in October 2003. Please click here for the recent notes of meeting and papers.

Children's Rights

We initiated the 'Child Ambassadors' Scheme' - in collaboration with the leading child-oriented NGOs - in 2000 as a means of promoting awareness of the CRC and of children's rights generally. We also aimed to provide children with a formal vehicle for the expression of their views and to develop their awareness of their status as persons who are bearers of rights. And, in March 2003, we provided funding to enable our NGO partners to organise Hong Kong's first Children's Council. The objectives were to promote public awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to give practical effect to the right of children to have their views respected. Legislators and senior representatives of the Government appeared before the Child Councillors to answer questions and to participate in the discussion. The event aroused public awareness of the Convention in particular and of children's rights in general.

After the first Children's Council, a core group of children who had been inspired by the children's rights 'message' formed their own Children's Council Working Committee with advice and assistance from our NGO partners, whom we continue to sponsor. The result was the second Children's Council, held in May 2004 and a Children's Forum, held in Hong Kong in December 2004. The third Children's Council was held on 19 November 2005.

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Children's Rights Forum

Children's Rights Forum was established in December 2005. The forum aims to provide a platform for exchanging views on matters concerning children's rights among NGOs, children's representatives and the Government. Please click here for the recent notes of meeting and papers.

The Children's Rights Unit was established in March 2006. The aim is to promote children's rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Unit's duties are to provide secretarial support to the Children's Rights Forum and implement any work plan decided by it; liaise with government departments, non-governmental organizations, and related parties on issues relating to children's rights; manage and monitor the Children's Rights Education Funding Scheme; and launch publicity and education programmes to promote children's rights.