Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho Chun-yan and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):
The former Legislative Council enacted the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance ("HKBORO") in June 1991, empowering the local courts to rule on cases of violation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR") as applicable to Hong Kong, and to provide redress through HKBORO for cases of violation. The British Hong Kong Government later established the Human Rights Education Working Group under the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education to educate the public on the various rights guaranteed under HKBORO, raise public awareness on the rule of law and human rights protection, and enhance the effectiveness of HKBORO. Yet, the SAR Government disbanded the Human Rights Education Working Group in 2007. Regarding the implementation and promotion of HKBORO, will the executive authorities inform this Council:
(a) of the reasons for not making consequential amendments to all the statutory provisions which have been ruled by the court to be in contravention of HKBORO;
(b) since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of HKBORO, whether the authorities will take this opportunity to organise events to promote human rights education among the public; and
(c) whether it will establish the Human Rights Education Working Group afresh and set up a human rights commission to promote public education on HKBORO and monitor the implementation of HKBORO and ICCPR?
My reply to the question is as follows:
(a) In Hong Kong, rights of the individual are protected by the Basic Law at the constitutional level, and by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (HKBORO) (Cap. 383) and the legislation in relevant areas. There are around 1000 judgments (excluding oral judgments) which included references to the HKBORO according to the Legal Reference System of the Judiciary, with the more important cases, in general, indicated in the System as being reported in the Authorised Hong Kong Law Reports & Digest. Of these reported cases, those in which the court has, since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), held the relevant statutory provisions, policies or measures (or part of them) of the Administration to be inconsistent with HKBORO, are listed at Annex. The Annex also shows how the Administration has taken appropriate follow-up actions in respect of the cases where the court has held the statutory provisions to be inconsistent with the HKBORO, including introduction of or amendments to legislation, or reviewing relevant matters.
(b) and (c) Throughout the years, the Government has been actively promoting human rights as guaranteed under the Basic Law, the HKBORO and relevant international human rights treaties as applied to Hong Kong. Promotion work has been carried out through various channels, including sponsorship for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to organise promotional activities, educational programmes at schools, roving exhibitions, media campaigns in the form of television and radio announcements in the public interest, publication and distribution of bilingual and comic booklets on the text of the human rights treaties applied to the HKSAR, and training of Government officials to enhance their knowledge on human rights. Relevant organisations such as the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) also conduct public education and publicity programmes to raise awareness and promote better understanding of relevant human rights concepts in the community. This is our on-going work and the efforts will continue this year.
As regards education, the Education Bureau has included human rights education in the relevant learning area and subject curriculum of primary and secondary schools to provide a comprehensive curriculum incorporating knowledge, skills, and values/attitudes for students. The Publicity Subcommittee under the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education is currently responsible for the promotion of various civic values, including the rule of law, social justice and human rights education.
In the HKSAR, human rights are fully protected by law and buttressed by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. There is also an existing institutional framework of organisations which help promote and safeguard different rights, including the EOC, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, The Ombudsman, and the legal aid services. The Government's work in promoting and safeguarding human rights is open to scrutiny through regular reports to the United Nations and is under the constant scrutiny of the Legislative Council, the media and the NGOs.
The Administration considers that the existing mechanisms on the protection and promotion of human rights have worked well. There is no obvious need for establishing another human rights institution to duplicate the functions of or supersede the existing mechanism, and the Administration has no plan to establish the Human Rights Education Working Group afresh.
Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011