The questions posed in the preface of the 1992 ICJ report of a mission to Hong Kong, Countdown to 1997, issued in 1992, remain unanswered even though the future has almost been reached.
The future is 1 July 1997. On that date, sovereignty over Hong Kong will be transferred from the United Kingdom to the Peoples’ Republic of China.
The ICJ has continuously been concerned about the maintenance and protection of the Rule of Law, respect for human rights and the independence of the judiciary, after the territory reverts to Chinese control. These concerns were initially broached in Countdown to 1997.
At that time, in 1992, the two main questions were: will the Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China allow Hong Kong the high degree of autonomy which it has promised? And will the Chinese government allow the people of Hong Kong to continue to benefit from and exercise the universal rights and freedoms which it has so far denied to its own citizens? The answers to these questions remain, so far, from satisfactory.
As part of an ongoing follow-up, the President of the ICJ, Justice Michael D. Kirby AC CMG, visited the British territory in October 1996. He met with representatives of the Territory’s government, the legal profession and members of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council.
This follow-up report of Justice Kuby’s visit provides a disturbing account of the uncertainty that remains just a few months away from the transition of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China.
It is now increasingly evident that strong mobilisation and vigilance will be required from international human rights bodies and the international community to ensure that for the six million inhabitants of Hong Kong, the territory can be kept safe for democracy, the Rule of Law and human rights.
The ICJ, for its part, has committed itself to endeavour to ensure that this transition will not be to the detriments of the people of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong-the countdown continues-fact finding mission report-1996-eng (full text in English, PDF)Fact-finding mission reportsReports