Countdown to 1997: report of a mission to Hong Kong
On 1 July 1997, sovereignty over Hong Kong will be transferred from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. The six million people of Hong Kong have never been asked to give their consent to this transfer.
They will be transferred to a regime whose record on human rights is a cause for great concern.
Most of the missions appointed by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have been sent to investigate current abuses of human rights. That is not the case with this mission.
Apart from the problems of the Vietnamese “boat people” (which were outside the terms of reference of the mission), there is relatively little cause for concern about human rights in Hong Kong at present.
The problem lies in the future. Will the Chinese Government in fact allow Hong Kong the high degree of autonomy which it has promised? Will the Chinese Government allow the people of Hong Kong to exercise the rights and freedoms which it has denied so far to its own citizens?
The mission, appointed in April 1991, consisted of four distinguished jurists: Sir William Goodhart, Q.C. (U.K.), Y.M. Raja Aziz Addruse (Malaysia), The Hon. John Dowd, A.O., Q.C. (Australia) and Professor Hans-Heiner Kuehne (Germany). It visited Hong Kong in June 1991 to take evidence and hear the views of Hong Kong people.
The Report which follows is disturbing. The mission is critical of the Basic Law, which represents in many respects an evasion by China of the terms which it had agreed with the United Kingdom to apply to Hong Kong.
The Report is also critical of the British government for its failure to allow the people of Hong Kong to exercise a right of self-determination and for its failure to object to the unsatisfactory provisions of the Basic Law.
It is clear that international vigilance will have a vital role in protecting human rights in Hong Kong. The ICJ hopes that this Report will help in ensuring that vigilance is maintained.
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