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2008 Summer Olympics Torch in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Protest of Civil Human Rights Front.
March in support of jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders, 20 August 2017

Human rights protection is enshrined in the Basic Law and its Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap.383). By virtue of the Bill of Rights Ordinance and Basic Law Article 39, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is put into effect in Hong Kong. Any legislation that is inconsistent with the Basic Law can be set aside by the courts.

In general, Hong Kong is perceived to enjoy a high level of District Court

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    Special courts and tribunals:

    • Coroner’s Court
    • Basic Law and its Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap.383). By virtue of the Bill of Rights Ordinance and Basic Law Article 39, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is put into effect in Hong Kong. Any legislation that is inconsistent with the Basic Law can be set aside by the courts.

      In general, Hong Kong is perceived to enjoy a high level of civil liberties.[1] The Hong Kong government generally respects the human rights of the citizens, although many core issues remain.[2] There are concerns over the freedoms to the people which is restricted by the Public Order Ordinance and the national security law. The police has been occasionally accused of using heavy-handed tactics towards protestors[3] and questions are asked towards the extensive powers of the police.[4] As to the right of privacy, covert surveillance remains the major concern.[5] There is a lack of protection for homosexuals due to the absence of a sexual orientation discrimination law.[6] There are also comments regarding a lack of protection for labour rights.[2]

      Human rights in Hong Kong occasionally comes under the spotlight of the international community because of its world city status.[according to whom?] This is occasionally used as a yardstick by commentators to judge whether the People's Republic of China has kept its end of the bargain of the "One Country, Two Systems" principle granted to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by its current mini-constitution, the Basic Law, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.[7]

      Protection Framework

      Sino-British Joint Declaration

      Under the Annex I (Section XI) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,[8] it stated that:

      The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall protect the rights and freedoms of inhabitants and other persons in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region according to law. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall maintain the rights and freedoms as provided for by the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, including freedom of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, to form and join trade unions, of correspondence, of travel, of movement, of strike, of demonstration, of choice of occupation, of academic research, of belief, inviolability of the home, the freedom to marry and the right to raise a family freely.

      The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionIn general, Hong Kong is perceived to enjoy a high level of civil liberties.[1] The Hong Kong government generally respects the human rights of the citizens, although many core issues remain.[2] There are concerns over the freedoms to the people which is restricted by the Public Order Ordinance and the national security law. The police has been occasionally accused of using heavy-handed tactics towards protestors[3] and questions are asked towards the extensive powers of the police.[4] As to the right of privacy, covert surveillance remains the major concern.[5] There is a lack of protection for homosexuals due to the absence of a sexual orientation discrimination law.[6] There are also comments regarding a lack of protection for labour rights.[2]

      Human rights in Hong Kong occasionally comes under the spotlight of the international community because of its world city status.[according to whom?] This is occasionally used as a yardstick by commentators to judge whether the People's Republic of China has kept its end of the bargain of the "One Country, Two Systems" principle granted to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by its current mini-constitution, the Basic Law, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.[7]

      Under the Annex I (Section XI) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,[8] it stated that:

      The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall protect the rights and freedoms of inhabitants and other persons in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region according to law. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall maintain the rights and freedoms as provided for by the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, including freedom of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, to form and join trade unions, of correspondence, of travel, of movement, of strike, of demonstration, of choice of occupation, of academic research, of belief, inviolability of the home, the freedom to marry and the right to raise a family freely.

      The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

      Under the Basic Law, the constitutional documents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, certain rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents (including both permanent residents and non-permanent residents) are guaranteed and safeguarded in Chapter III of the law.[9] These rights and freedoms include:

      • equality before the law;
      • permanent residents' right to vote and to stand for election in accordance with law;
      • freedom of speech, of the press and of publication;
      • freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration;
      • freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike;
      • the right from arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention and imprisonment;
      • the right from torture and unlawful deprivation of the life;
      • the right from arbitrary or unlawful search of, or intrusion into resident's home or other premises;
      • freedom and privacy of communication;
      • freedom of movement within Hong Kong, of emigration to other countries or regions, and freedom to enter or leave Hong Kong;
      • freedom of conscience;
      • freedom of religious belief and to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities in public;
      • freedom of choice of occupation;
      • freedom to engage academic research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural activities;
      • the right to confidential legal advice, access to the courts, choices of lawyers for timely protection of their lawful rights and interests or for representation in the courts, and to judicial remedies;
      • the right to institute legal proceedings in the courts against the acts of the executive authorities and their personnel;
      • the right to social welfare in accordance with law;
      • freedom of marriage and the right to raise a family freely; and
      • other rights and freedoms safeguarded by the laws of Hong Kong SAR.

      Article 39 also expressly states that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force in Hong Kong to the extent that they shall not contravene the provisions of the rights protected by the Basic Law.

      Although these rights are explicitly vested in Hong Kong residents, non-residents in Hong Kong may also enjoy these rights and freedoms in accordance with law by Article 41.

      In addition, Article 87 protects and preserves the rights previously enjoyed by parties to any criminal or civil proceedings, especially the right to fair trial by the courts without delay and the presumption of innocence until convicted by the courts. Article 105 protects the rights of property and the right to compensation for lawful deprivation of property of individuals and legal persons.

      Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance

      The Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383)(the "Bill of Rights"), enacted in 1991,[10] is the local adaptation of the provisions of the ICCPR as applied in Hong Kong. The Bill of Rights has largely been recognised by the courts as one of the constitutional documents alongside with the Basic Law. However, the fact that the Bill of Rights was enacted in the form of an Ordinance (as a local primary legislation) means that the Legislature can amend or repeal the Bill of Rights by an ordinary enactment through ordinary legislative procedure, subject to judicial review. Furthermore, if any part of the Bill of Rights is held unconstitutional (i.e. any part contravenes the Basic Law), the courts are bound to strike down that part.

      After the transfer of sovereignty, certain provisions of the Bill of Rights ceased to have effect, including sections 2(3) (duty to have regard to purpose of Ordinance in interpretation), 3(1) (duty to construe pre-existing legislation consistently with the Ordinance), 3(2) (pre-existing legislation that cannot be construed consistently is repealed) and 4 (all future to be construed so as to be consistent with the ICCPR as applied to Hong Kong). However, due to the entrenchment of the ICCPR as applied in Hong Kong in Article 39 of the Basic Law, the significance of the Bill of Rights Ordinance, which was modelled after the ICCPR, has been reinstated.[11]

      Some Basic Law rights overlap with the rights protected by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance to certain extents while the provisions in the Bill of Rights and in the ICCPR are not identical.[11] As a result, a right can be protected by either the Basic Law, the Bill of Rights, or the ICCPR as applied in Hong Kong at the same time.

      Common Law

      Before the enactment of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, the protection of human rights in Hong Kong has largely relied on the common law of England. Civil liberties protection have a long history in English common law and are generally transcribed as human rights in modern time.

      Under Articles 8 and 18 of the Basic Law, the laws previously in force in Hong Kong includes the common law rules which did not contravene the Basic Law and are part of the laws of HKSAR. Since colonial Hong Kong law defines "common law" as "the common law of England",The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall protect the rights and freedoms of inhabitants and other persons in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region according to law. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government shall maintain the rights and freedoms as provided for by the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, including freedom of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, to form and join trade unions, of correspondence, of travel, of movement, of strike, of demonstration, of choice of occupation, of academic research, of belief, inviolability of the home, the freedom to marry and the right to raise a family freely.

Under the Basic Law, the constitutional documents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, certain rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents (including both permanent residents and non-permanent residents) are guaranteed and safeguarded in Chapter III of the law.[9] These rights and freedoms include:

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