From June 2019 to Sep 2020
Human rights protection in Hong Kong is enshrined in the Basic Law and its Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap.383). By virtue of the Bill of Rights Ordinance and Article 39 of the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is put into effect in the city. Any legislation that is inconsistent with the Basic Law can be set aside by the courts.
In the past, Hong Kong has been seen to be enjoying high levels of civil liberties. Historically, Hong Kong has been the safe haven for the dissident, the liberal-minded, and the nonconformist; we speak truth to an increasingly powerful China. And in the past year, we have been standing at the forefront against China’s encroaching authoritarianism. The liberty of the city — from its role of an international financial hub to the vibrancy of its civil society — always pertains to the interest of the international community. Furthermore, the promises of “one country, two systems”, “high degree of autonomy” and universal suffrage enshrined in the Basic Law are, in turn, backed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration (Joint Declaration) which was ratified under international law.
However, since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong’s liberty has only been deteriorating. In 2003 Hong Kong government’s forceful attempt to pass a similar piece of legislation in the local legislature was met with uproar from civil society and was aborted. The undemocratic nature of the government proved to be its Achilles’ heel in legislating such a controversial bill. Later, the citizens’ right to universal suffrage was denied in 2014 as the 831 decision was made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) breaking the promise made in the. Last year, the legitimacy of the local and the central governments faced yet another major challenge amid the 2019 anti-Extradition law movement. In the movement, we witnessed police brutality, the crumble of the city’s system and the decline of human rights.
In 2020, Beijing hammered the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s autonomy and fundamental rights. The National People’s Congress (NPC) introduced the national security law (NSL) which purports to “establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms” to “safeguard national security” in Hong Kong. It empowers the NPC’s Standing Committee (NPCSC) to entirely bypass the local legislative process in Hong Kong and implant the infamous “national security law” in the city. On paper, this law aims at prohibiting any act of secession, subversion against the central government, terrorism, and foreign interference with Hong Kong affairs. It constitutes, however, a devastating blow to Hong Kong’s already fragile autonomy and civil liberties. The law has become a tool of oppression.
In light of this, this report seeks to provide an overview of Hong Kong’s human rights and related issues and inform its readers about the threat both locals and foreigners are facing in such circumstances.