TT: Does Hong Kong have any official human rights institution similar to the national human rights commission that the UN has advocated since the late 1970s? \nByrnes: It doesn't have a national human rights commission but it has the Equal Opportunities Commission, which looks at discrimination against gender, pregnancy, marital and family status, as well as disability. \nIt doesn't have the general authority to receive complaints of violations of international treaties which apply to Hong Kong. \nIt does, however, have an educational function, and it has the authority to receive individuals' complaints against discrimination. Its primary role there is to investigate, and try to resolve the complaint. \nIf it can't, then it may grant the complainant assistance in taking the matter to court. \nTT: What is the foremost human rights concern in Hong Kong at the moment? \nByrnes: The most serious ongoing human rights question is the lack of democratic accountability, both of the chief executive, who is elected by a small circle of 800, and also of the legislature whose election is not fully democratic. \nUnfortunately, this affects everything because it means the government and the legislature cannot be held accountable by the majority of people. \nUnlike Taiwan, we can't change our chief executive and we can't change the government. \nWhat Beijing says essentially goes in terms of who is going to be the chief executive. \nThere are a number of other major issues of which the Public Order Ordinance is a big concern at the moment. \nThis law in effect regulates when demonstrations and public meetings can be held. \nThis is an area that was liberalized just before the transfer of sovereignty in 1997. \nOne of the first things the Provisional Legislative Council (the new Legislative Council) did after the handover was to tighten up in this area. People are getting very upset as they think it's now too restrictive. \nUnfortunately, the government has mishandled this matter. They don't want to go back to the former liberalized law because that will be an even greater loss of face for the pro-Beijing forces. \nThe government has been very uncompromising too, which has stirred up lots of opposition against the law. So this is one of the big topics of public debate at the present moment. \nTT: Have there been any changes in human rights matters following the handover in 1997? \nByrnes: Yes. The big change is that the legislature became less democratic immediately. \nOn the positive side, we got a new bill of rights, constitutional rights, economic rights and so on. However a number of liberal measures were repealed. \nThings looked quite good after a Court of Final Appeal judgement in January 1999 upheld the right under the Basic Law to allow children of Hong Kong residents to immigrate to Hong Kong from China. \nThe government didn't like that, and was not prepared to accept the judgment so it went to the standing committee of the National People's Congress and got them to overturn the court's ruling. \nThat, I think, has undermined the rule of law. But it has made it very clear the court is not the final arbiter and the government is not prepared to accept its decisions when it loses a case. \nUnfortunately, the courts seem to have retreated a little since then. \nTT: Has freedom of expression or freedom of the press been affected at all since 1997? \nByrnes: There have been many statements from pro-China forces about what can and can't be said on Taiwan issues, though to be fair there have also been very strong objections in response. \nNone of these statements about Taiwan escapes a very strong challenge or resistance, so the good thing, I think, is that there's still a lot of debate going on as people get very upset. \nTT: How does "one China, two systems" work in Hong Kong in terms of human rights protection? \nByrnes: Reasonably well on the whole. I think for the most part Beijing has to be given credit for generally keeping its hands off. \nBut they can do that because they have their man [Tung Chee-hwa] in charge. In a way, he probably goes further than they would. \nTT: Might Hong Kong in any way be able to influence the communist regime? \nByrnes: I think there are lots of exchanges going on, between the judiciary and the bar associations of lawyers. \nOn the academic side, various research programs are going on. As for NGOs, I think lots of informal interaction is taking place too. \nI think Taiwan is going to be a great influence too. \nEveryone is aware of the fact that, for the first time in history, a change of government has been brought about democratically in a Chinese society. \nI think that has brought a very powerful message to Hong Kong as well as China.
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South
‘CORRUPTION’: One DPP lawmaker and two KMT legislators were held incommunicado, while former NPP chairman Hsu Yung-ming was released on bail in the Pacific Sogo case The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered that three lawmakers be held incommunicado amid a probe into allegedly bribery relating to an ownership dispute over Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨). The three are Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) of the Democratic Progressive Party, and Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Also held incommunicado were Su’s office director Yu Hsueh-yang (余學洋) and Sufin’s office director Ting Fu-hua (丁復華), as well as Kuo Ke-ming (郭克銘), a political lobbyist and general manager of Knowledge International Consultancy (是知管理顧問公司). The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday raided the offices of six incumbent and former