Representatives from 11 NGOs will speak about racial discrimination in Hong Kong at United Nations hearings set to take place in Geneva on August 10 and 13.
The delegation will take part in a periodic review process held by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). They previously compiled a joint submission by 54 civil society organisations highlighting issues faced by ethnic minorities, their children, migrant workers and refugees.
“It’s very important for Hong Kong to continue to be subject to UN scrutiny of our human rights records,” said former lawmaker Emily Lau at a press conference on Wednesday. Lau will be representing the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.
The Hong Kong government submitted its own report last year and will also send a delegation to Geneva. The government is supposed to send a report every four years, but the last CERD hearing on Hong Kong was held in 2009.
Director of the Human Rights Monitor Law Yuk-kai said the government report “whitewashed” the situation and did not reflect the reality in Hong Kong. He added that the government’s attempts to improve the situation for ethnic minorities were “neither here nor there.”
The NGO representatives said they planned to lobby the committee members and help them scrutinise the government’s report. The CERD is expected to complete the process and publish its concluding observations at the end of August.
Lau said the UN conclusions are useful for spurring reform: “It brings results – sometimes more, sometimes less. The Race Discrimination Ordinance came about as a result of different UN bodies scolding the Hong Kong government,” she said.
Puja Kapai, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, acknowledged that the government had implemented policy changes since the last CERD hearing, but said they were not enough.
“At the moment, the government’s approach largely seems to focus on allocating more funding – but funding alone does not get results,” she said.
The delegation planned to inform the committee of systemic issues on race in Hong Kong, including problems with the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Race Discrimination Ordinance.
Kapai said that the EOC had a limited mandate and remains a “fairly weak body,” and the Race Discrimination Ordinance did not cover government departments and personnel.
The delegation also planned to raise issues concerning “de facto racial segregation” in the education sector, discriminatory immigration control for migrant workers, harsh screening mechanism for refugees, and the lack of laws against human trafficking.