In response to media enquiries about an annual human rights report published by the Amnesty International, a Government spokesman said today (May 28) that Hong Kong is a free and open society which subscribes to the rule of law.
“Hong Kong residents have their fundamental rights and freedom, including the freedom of speech and assembly, protected by the Basic Law,” the spokesman said.
Hong Kong has enacted its law to govern public meetings and processions. “The Hong Kong Police endeavoured to facilitate all lawful and peaceful public order events during the Olympic Equestrian Events in 2008. In doing so, they sought to strike a balance between respecting the freedoms of expression and assembly of the demonstrators, and the need to ensure that no danger or undue inconvenience was caused to other members of the public,” he said.
Hong Kong welcomes genuine visitors from around the world. The Hong Kong Immigration Department adopts a liberal visa regime and handles all entry applications in accordance with the law and prevailing policy.
Similar to other immigration authorities around the world, the Immigration Department has the responsibility to uphold effective immigration control and the power to refuse entry where necessary to ensure the public interest.
“In so doing, the department takes into account the law, the prevailing policy and relevant factors and circumstances pertaining to a case. Each entry application is determined on its individual merits,” the spokesman said.
In explaining Hong Kong’s policy on asylum-seekers, the spokesman said that the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees does not apply to Hong Kong.
“We have a firm policy of not granting asylum and do not have any obligation to admit individuals seeking refugee status under the Convention. Claims for refugee status lodged in Hong Kong are dealt with by the Hong Kong Sub-office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR-HK),” he said.
“On UNHCR-HK's advice that an illegal immigrant or overstayer has lodged a refugee claim with the Office, the Government will not remove or deport the person before the refugee claim is determined, unless the person chooses to return to his/her country of origin before the determination of the claim.
“When a refugee claim is established, the Government will arrange for the refugee's departure according to resettlement arrangements made by UNHCR-HK,” he said.
On searches on detainees, the spokesman said the Police are authorized by law to do so for the performance of their duties.
“The scope of each search is to be decided by the searching officer on the basis of the legitimate purpose of the search and the actual circumstances. When conducting a search, police officers fully respect the dignity and privacy of the person being searched. A properly conducted search with a scope that is no more than what is rational and proportionate to achieve a legitimate purpose will not be an unlawful or arbitrary interference with privacy or dignity,” he said.
The new Guidelines on Searching of Detained Persons introduced by the Police since July 1, 2008 stipulate specific requirements on how to conduct a search and the keeping of records on the reasons for and the scope of a search. All searching officers must strictly observe these Guidelines.
The spokesman emphasised that the Police do not conduct searches involving removal of underwear routinely, but only in circumstances with strong justification.
In its Concluding Observation in respect of Hong Kong made in November 2008, the United Nations Committee Against Torture welcomed the Hong Kong Police Force’s new search Guidelines.
On racial discrimination, the spokesman said, "The Government is committed to combating racial discrimination. The Government is prohibited from practising racial discrimination under the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. The Race Discrimination Ordinance, passed by the Legislative Council last year after detailed scrutiny, explicitly provides that it binds the Government. The definition of race as adopted in the Ordinance follows the definition used in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination."
Ends/Thursday, May 28, 2009