Repository of United Nations recommendations on human rights in Hong Kong

This page compiles all recommendations issued by UN human rights bodies - including the UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, the UN Treaty Bodies, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - on the human rights situation in Hong Kong since 2018. Recommendations are sorted by topic and community affected.

This repository compiles all recommendations issued by UN human rights bodies to the Government of the Hong Kong since 2018, the year of the People's Republic of China's third Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

This includes recommendations in: Concluding Observations issued by UN Treaty Bodies following reviews of China, including Hong Kong, in 2022 (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)) and 2023 (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)), as well as Hong Kong's review by the Human Rights Committee in June 2022; communications and press releases by UN Special Procedures (Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups), including Opinions by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and press releases by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

These UN bodies are composed of independent, impartial experts, from all geographic regions.

This repository does not cover all topics, nor does it include all recommendations issued by the above-mentioned UN bodies. It maintains the original language of the recommendation issued by a given UN body, with minor formatting changes.

Please click here for the repository of recommendations on China, and here for the repository of recommendations on Macao.

 

Concluding Observations from the UN Treaty Bodies

All recommendations from the Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the fourth periodic report of Hong Kong, 22 July 2022, including:

    • Take concrete steps to repeal the current National Security Law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it
    • Ensure that the legislative process for enacting a new national security law is inclusive and transparent and facilitate the free, open and meaningful participation of civil society and the public, and that the concerns relating to the current National Security Law expressed by international human rights mechanisms, including this Committee, are addressed with a view to ensuring that the new legislation fully conforms with the Covenant
    • Take effective measures, including by establishing an independent legal aid authority, to guarantee the rights to timely and competent legal aid and to counsel of choice, including in the case of persons charged under the National Security Law
    • Take all measures necessary to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and protect the judiciary from any form of interference
    • Respect and protect the right to a fair trial without discrimination based on political opinion or other grounds
    • Protect lawyers, particularly those who represent opposition figures or protesters and request judicial reviews, from harassment, intimidation and attacks, in accordance with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and ensure that all such allegations are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims have access to effective remedies
    • Repeal the sedition provisions under the Crimes Ordinance and refrain from using them to suppress the expression of critical and dissenting opinions
    • Review pending sedition cases to ensure no one is prosecuted or targeted for the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression
    • Stop applying the National Security Law and legislation on sedition against journalists, politicians, academics, human rights defenders, students and members of the public duly exercising their right to freedom of expression
    • Discontinue all cases against journalists and individuals charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression and provide them with adequate compensation
    • Ensure the editorial independence of all media outlets and protect journalists from intimidation and attacks and investigate all such cases
    • Immediately stop censoring books and other material in the public libraries, including school libraries, and reinstate the books and other material that have been removed for allegedly breaching the National Security Law or for being contrary to the interests of national security
    • Take all the measures necessary to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly, including  facilitating assemblies and imposing proportionate restrictions only where strictly necessary to achieve one of the permitted goals identified in the Covenant
    • Remove all the restrictive measures imposed on trade unions and discontinue all cases against trade unionists charged in connection with their union activities
    • Review the Societies Ordinance and other relevant legislation in order to remove the procedural and substantive obstacles to registering and running a society and to bring them into line with article 22 of the Covenant
    • Ensure that members and representatives of civil society organizations are not charged under the National Security Law or victimized in any other way as a result of their engagement with the Committee for the present review, with other international human rights mechanisms, including other Treaty Bodies, the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, or with international NGOs
    • Ensure that all allegations of excessive use of force by police, particularly in the policing of protests from July to November 2019, are investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially, that those responsible are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished , and that the victims obtain redress; and consider establishing a commission of inquiry in this regard
    • Review the existing guidelines and regulations on the use of force by law enforcement officials to ensure their full conformity with the Covenant, the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement
    • Establish a fully independent mechanism with adequate powers and a mandate to conduct a proper investigation into complaints of misconduct or abuse of power by the police and to formulate binding decisions in respect of investigations conducted and findings thereon
    • Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits all forms of direct, indirect and multiple discrimination, based on all prohibited grounds of discrimination, including age, sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and private spheres
    • Intensify its efforts to combat discrimination against LGBTI persons, including by conducting public awareness-raising campaigns
    • Adopt a legal framework to explicitly prohibit and prevent discrimination, harassment, hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTI persons, and ensure that all such cases are thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned, and provide access to effective remedies for victims
    • Put in place a quick, transparent and accessible procedure for the legal gender recognition of transgender persons and immediately discontinue the policy of requiring medically unnecessary gender - reassignment surgery
    • Repeal the two-week rule and the live-in requirements and in the meantime take concrete action to address their adverse effects on migrant domestic workers
    • Provide effective complaint s mechanisms for reporting abuse and exploitation, taking into account the unique working situations of migrant domestic workers
    • Ensure that cases of exploitation and abuse are thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that victims have access to effective remedies
    • Review its legal provisions on combating trafficking with a view to criminalizing all forms of trafficking in persons in accordance with relevant international human rights standards and consider adopting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law to this end
    • Take concrete steps, with a clear timeline, to introduce universal suffrage
    • In the meantime, reform the electoral system in accordance with article 25 of the Covenant and the Committee’s general comment No. 25 (1996) , including by:
      • increasing the number of seats directly elected by public voters in the Election Committee and the Legislative Council
      • increasing the number of public voters in the Election Committee
      • introducing public voting for the election of the Chief Executive
      • revising candidate eligibility criteria to ensure diversity among candidates
      • review the criteria for and process of disqualification , and repeal discriminatory criteria
    • Reverse the decision to disqualify elected officials

 

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Concluding Obserations on the ninth period report of China, 12 May 2023:

    • Consider withdrawing its reservations to articles 11 (2), 14 and 15 applicable to Hong Kong
    • Strengthen the legislative framework to protect women’s human rights, including by amending the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, and:
      • Amend the provisions to introduce a positive obligation for employers to take measures to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace, and take steps to provide victims of gender-based violence with prompt and effective access to a remedy
      • Repeal the provisions which require proof of intention to discriminate in order for a claimant to obtain damages for indirect discrimination
      • Adopt legislation on sexual orientation discrimination, gender expression discrimination and discrimination based on physical characteristics, as recommended by the Equal Opportunities Commission
      • Ensure that the small house policy is applied in a way that does not discriminate against women
    • Allocate adequate human, technical and financial resources to the Women’s Commission and enable it to monitor and publicly report on women’s human rights
    • Strengthen cooperation of the Women’s Commission with independent women’s rights organizations
    • Develop an action plan on women’s rights and gender equality to guide Hong Kong in promoting substantive equality of women and men across all sectors, which defines time-bound indicators, targets and an adequate monitoring and accountability framework, including public reporting requirements
    • Strengthen the provision of capacity-building for public officials, including by developing comprehensive guidelines for gender mainstreaming across government policies and for gender-responsive budgeting
    • Adopt temporary special measures, such as regulatory instruments, policies and practices, outreach and support programmes, allocation of resources, preferential treatment, targeted recruitment and the hiring and promotion of women, and establish time-bound targets, as a necessary strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality between women and men in all areas covered by the Convention where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, including participation in political and public life
      • Promote understanding of the non-discriminatory nature of temporary special measures among public officials, parliamentarians, policymakers, employers and the general public 
      • Monitor the implementation of temporary special measures, assess their impact on achieving substantive equality between women and men, systematically collect data on the impact of temporary special measures and include such data in its next periodic report
    • Urgently submit to the parliament for adoption draft legislation on sexual offences that incorporates a definition of rape, which is based on lack of consent, covers any non-consensual sexual act and takes into account all coercive circumstances, in line with international human rights standards
    • Encourage reporting of all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, as well as cyberviolence and stalking, including by establishing special gender-responsive units in police stations to receive and register women’s complaints and by adopting and adequately funding a witness protection programme
    • Increase the number of women judges, prosecutors and police officers and provide capacity-building to the judiciary, the police and other law enforcement officers on the strict application of relevant criminal law provisions and on gender-sensitive investigation and interrogation methods
    • Adequately fund victim support services and a sufficient number of shelters run by NGOs and ensure their accessibility
    • Adopt harmonized protocols for the collection of data on incidents of gender-based violence against women, in coordination with the Census and Statistics Department, disaggregated by form of violence, age, region, disability and relationship between the victim and the perpetrator
    • [China to] extend the applicability of the Palermo Protocol to Hong Kong
    • Adopt comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation
    • Intensify efforts aimed at bilateral, regional and international cooperation to prevent trafficking, including by exchanging information and harmonizing legal procedures to prosecute traffickers
    • Repeal legislative provisions on “vice establishment” and afford enhanced protection to women in prostitution as well as exit programmes and alternative income-generating opportunities for women who wish to leave prostitution
    • Adopt concrete measures, including the introduction of temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 and general recommendation No. 23, such as the adoption of minimum quotas or of a parity system, to promote women’s representation in political life
    • Take into consideration the paramount importance of the right of peaceful assembly and refrain from over-prioritizing public order and security concerns when considering restrictions on democratic manifestations such as the annual Labour and Women’s Rights and Gender Equality March
    • Increase its efforts to eliminate the persistent gender wage gap, including by undertaking regular gender pay reviews in all occupational sectors, including the public service, in cooperation with employers’ associations and trade unions, applying gender-sensitive analytical job classification and evaluation methods
    • Strengthen legal safeguards to protect women migrant domestic workers from discrimination and abuse by employers and recruitment and placement agencies, including by increasing labour inspections to private households, and effectively investigate and punishing exploitative and abusive practices of employers
    • Consider extending the two-week rule to ensure that women migrant domestic workers whose contracts have been terminated have sufficient time to seek alternative employment or file claims for unpaid salaries against their former employers
    • Repeal the live-in rule or ensure that it is available on an optional basis
    • Harmonize legislation with the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) of the International Labour Organization
    • Ensure that complaints filed by migrant domestic workers regarding abuse or exploitation are followed up without delay by labour inspection authorities
    • Continue its efforts to combat intersecting forms of discrimination against lesbian, transsexual and transgender women in employment and education and in accessing health services

 

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Concluding Observations on the third periodic report of China, 3 March 2023:

    • Establish an independent national human rights institution with a broad mandate in line with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles), and to allocate sufficient human, technical and financial resources for it to fully exercise its mandate in relation to economic, social and cultural rights
    • Cooperate with China to review the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (2020) to ensure the full independence of the judiciary and to ensure that national security legislation is not arbitrarily used to interfere with it
    • Immediately provide all due process guarantees to human rights defenders, civil society actors, journalists, lawyers working on human rights and others working to defend economic, social and cultural rights, including access to independent and effective legal representation at every stage of the proceedings [of arrests, detention and trials]
    • Abolish the national security hotline
    • Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislative, political and administrative measures prohibiting direct, indirect and multiple discrimination, including explicitly prohibiting discrimination and criminalizing harassment, hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTI persons in accordance with article 2 (2) of the Covenant and taking into account the Committee's general comment No. 20 (2009) on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights
    • Intensify its efforts to combat discrimination against LGBTI persons, including by conducting public awareness-raising campaigns
    • Adopt all necessary measures, with specific targets and a time frame, to eliminate the persistent gender wage gap
    • Increase its efforts to combat gender stereotypes, including by increasing the use of the media and awareness-raising campaigns
    • Enhance women's representation in senior public positions, including by considering quotas
    • Increase its efforts to address youth unemployment, for example by implementing targeted public sector employment schemes and/or by subsidizing youth employment in private sector companies, as well as by enacting legislation explicitly prohibiting age discrimination in employment
    • Expand the application of the statutory minimum wage to include all categories of employees and amend the two- weeks rule and the live-in requirement, with a view to enabling migrant domestic workers ’ full enjoyment of their rights under the Covenant
    • Adequately monitor conditions of migrant domestic workers, including by raising the level of fines for employers and increasing the number of unannounced inspections by labour inspection authorities, as well as by increasing measures to prevent and combat trafficking
    • Review the Trade Union Ordinance, the Public Order Ordinance, and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (2020) and their implementation, with a view to enabling the exercise of the right to freely form trade unions
    • Expand the coverage of occupation-based contributory systems and raise the pension benefits to ensure an adequate standard of living, particularly in a context of rapidly rising inflation
    • Review the implementation of the Elderly Services Programme Plan to ensure that human rights are adequately taken into consideration
    • Expand the scope of rental housing subsidies to low-income households and consider increasing the financing of public housing construction projects
    • Lower the threshold for financial eligibility for public housing
    • Review its legislation to ensure the full academic freedom of students, teachers and other university staff, in cooperation with China
    • Review the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (2020), in cooperation with China, to ensure full artistic freedom and enjoyment of the rights to history, culture and science
    • Take measures to achieve its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement by, inter alia, increasing taxation of emission
    • Further expand the emissions trading system to industries and sectors not currently included therein
    • Make all efforts to replace fossil fuel in its energy mix, including by increasing renewable energy as an alternative
    • Suspend permissions to construct coal-fired power plants and pause ongoing financing for construction, including in the State party and abroad

 

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Concluding Observations on the combined second and third periodic reports of China, 1 September 2022:

    • Align the eligibility standards in the Disability Allowance Scheme with the human rights model, and to adopt a unified concept of disability in all professional and legal areas that is aligned with the purpose and principles of the Convention and covers all persons with disabilities
    • Ensure that the use of all derogatory language in reference to persons with disabilities is eliminated from all legislation, public documents and public discourse
    • Adopt laws and policies that replace the substitute decision-making system with supported decision-making mechanisms that respect the autonomy, will and preference of persons with disabilities, and ensure the effective participation of women with disabilities to inform the drafting of laws and policies
    • Review all legislation with a view to eliminating all restrictions of rights as a result of a declaration of legal incapacity or on the grounds of a person's disability
    • Provide the authorities, including law enforcement agencies and courts, with training on the requirements of the right to legal capacity of persons with disabilities
    • Establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of police brutality against persons with disabilities who participated in public demonstrations, and ensure that persons with disabilities whose rights were violated following their participation in public demonstrations receive adequate support and compensation, including rehabilitation
    • In close consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities, develop an action plan to end, as a matter of priority, the institutionalization of all persons with disabilities and to support the transition from institutions to life in the community, with specific time frames, human, technical and financial resources, and clear responsibilities for implementation and independent monitoring
    • Urgently repeal and independently review the Law of the People ’ s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to ensure that it is compliant with human rights and international law
    • Take prompt action to release human rights defenders with disabilities who were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty under charges of terrorism and subversion of national security
    • Adopt measures to ensure that human rights organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities, operate in safe environments and can seek, receive and use funding from foreign or international sources, without undue impediments
    • Allocate sufficient funds to developing a multi-year mental health - care plan that includes the establishment of community and human rights-based mental health services and support across Hong Kong
    • Establish an independent mechanism for monitoring human rights with a broad mandate in full compliance with the Paris Principles

 

 

Letters and press releases from UN Special Procedures

Letters ('communications') from the UN Special Procedures (Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups)

    1. 31 August 2023, JAL CHN 16/2023, joined by 4 mandates, letter on the implementation of the National Security Legislation (NSL) in HKSAR, specifically in the 6 February 2023 start of the first trial of 47 individuals accused of crimes under the NSL; government responses on 05 October 2023 and 01 November 2023 (links 1 and 2).
    2. 25 July 2023, JOL CHN 12/2023, joined by 5 mandates, letter on the Public Consultation Document and Specific Proposals on the Regulation of Crowdfunding Activities issued in December 2022 by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau of the HKSAR; government responses on 21 August 2023 and 25 September 2023 (links 1 and 2).
    3. 19 April 2023, OL CHN 2/2023, joined by 1 mandate, letter on the provisions of the National Security Law, amendments to the Legal Aid Scheme, and proposed amendments to the Legal Practitioners Bill in Hong Kong; government response on 23 June 2023 (link 1, link 2).
    4. 17 March 2023, JAL CHN 1/2023, joined by 5 mandates, letter on Jimmy Lai ; government response on 1 May 2023 (link).
    5. 14 February 2022, OL CHN 3/2022, joined by 1 mandate, letter on the applicability of the ICCPR to the law enforcement and judicial activity carried out under the National Security Law; government response on 10 August 2022 (link).
    6. 24 September 2021, JUA CHN 10/2021, joined by 5 mandates, letter on woman human rights defender and pro-democracy activist Ms. Chow Hang-Tung; government response on 22 December 2021 (link).
    7. 13 August 2021, JAL CHN 9/2021, joined by 3 mandates, letter on the erosion of the right to freedom of speech, education and academic freedom in the HKSAR since the enactment of the NSL; government response on 11 November 2021 (link).
    8. 1 September 2020, JOL CHN 17/2020, joined by 7 mandates, letter on the National Security Law in HKSAR; government response on 30 October 2020 (link).
    9. 19 June 2020, JOL CHN 13/2020, joined by 7 mandates, letter on serious concerns about the proposed changes to the HKSAR’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms proposed in the Draft NSL; without a government response.
    10. 4 May 2020, JAL CHN 9/2020, joined by 4 mandates, letter on the arrest of 15 pro-democracy activists in connection with their participation in peaceful protests between August and October 2019 in HKSAR; government response on 10 July 2020 (link).
    11. 23 April 2020, JOL CHN 7/2020, joined by 6 mandates, letter on the UN (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance, (“Anti-Terrorism Law”) and Crimes Ordinance, (“Sedition Law”), encouraging review and reconsideration of certain key aspects to ensure that the ordinances are in compliance with China’s international human rights obligations in respect of HKSAR; government response on 23 July 2020 (link1, link2, link3, link4, link5).
    12. 19 February 2020, JAL CHN 3/2020, joined by 4 mandates, letter on the harassment, intimidation and arrest of healthcare workers, occurred in the context of the large-scale civil rights protests that broke out in Hong Kong in June 2019; government response on 28 May 2020 (link).
    13. 11 February 2020, JAL CHN 1/2020, joined by 2 mandates, letter on the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) of the four anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong; government response on 19 May 2020 (link).
    14. 29 January 2020, JAL CHN 2/2020, joined by 2 mandates, letter on the allegedly inappropriate use of chemical agents during demonstrations from June to December of 2019 in Hong Kong; government response on 21 April 2020 (link) and on 28 August 2020 (link1, link2, link3).
    15. 28 June 2019, JAL CHN 12/2019, joined by 4 mandates, letter on the alleged excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators and human rights defenders, as well as alleged arbitrary arrest of individuals participating in peaceful demonstrations in Hong Kong; government response on 07 September 2019 (link) and on 24 September 2019 (link).
    16. 2 May 2019, JAL CHN 4/2019, joined by 4 mandates, letter on the sentencing of Mr. Benny Tai Yiu-Ting, Mr. Chan Kin-Man and Mr. Chu Yiu-Ming, along with six other human rights defenders in connection with their participation in the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014; government response on 15 July2019 (link).

 

Press releases from Special Procedures, including recommendations to the Chinese government

    • 9 October 2023: China/Hong Kong SAR: UN experts concerned about ongoing trials and arrest warrants under National Security Legislation
    • 12 October 2021: Hong Kong: Arrests under security law are serious concern, UN experts call for review
    • 13 May 2020: Hong Kong urged not to silence peaceful protest with criminal charges
    • 12 September 2019: China/Hong Kong SAR*: UN experts urge China to respect protesters’ rights

 

 

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Press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    1. 7 January 2021: Comment by UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
    2. 19 June 2020: China/Hong Kong SAR: Security law must meet human rights obligations, says Bachelet

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