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AIHK submission to the HKSAR government on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

09 Apr

AIHK submission to the HKSAR government on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

In light of the HKSAR government’s submission of the third report of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Amnesty International Hong Kong (AIHK) submitted its views on the implementation of CRC in Hong Kong. The submission highlights some of AIHK’s key concerns and observation with regard to the establishment of effective consultative mechanisms to respect the view of the child (Article 12)children’s right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly (Article 13 & 15)human rights education (Article 28 & 29), refugee or asylum-seeking children (Article 22) and reported ill-treatment of children in juvenile correctional facilities (Article 37). 

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly enjoyed by students have been severely limited since the enactment of the National Security Law in July 2020. Source: SCMP

Children’s right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly (Article 13 & 15)

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly enjoyed by students have been severely limited since the enactment of the National Security Law in July 2020, as the Education Bureau (EDB) effectively stifles all forms of peaceful expression of “political messages” at schools.[1] According to the new EDB guidelines in relation to safeguarding national security, teachers must bar or dissuade students from all activities that involve the expression of political views on campus, including displaying propaganda items that may be “in breach of the national security law”, chanting political slogans and singing songs that contain political messages.[2] Schools must also ensure that displays of words or objects within the campus, including library collections, bulletin boards, and leaflets, have no contents that “endanger national security”. The EDB also instructed all primary schools and secondary schools to dissuade students from initiating, organising, joining, or encouraging their fellows to participate in activities that express their political views, including class boycotts and forming human chains as actions of solidarity.[3]

Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that the authorities’ overly broad and vague definition of national security may further silence opposition views on campus, creating a chilling effect on children’s free expression.[4] Peaceful expression of political views and academic discussion should not be regarded as a breach or threat of national security if not intended or likely to incite imminent violence.[5]

Recommendations  

  • Stop using national security as a pretext to unnecessarily restrict students’ right to freedom of expression, including political activities, within and outside the campus 
  • Ensure and facilitate a campus environment in which students feels respected and secure to freely express their opinions by peaceful means
  • Ensure that any restriction on peaceful assemblies to protect public health or other legitimate concerns are necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory

Human rights education (Articles 28, 29)

The CRC highlights human rights education as an integral part of serving the aims of education, including nurturing children’s respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and preparing them for responsible life in a free society.[6] The government has to promote and ensure human rights education and training, as well as to create a safe and enabling environment for the engagement of civil society.[7]

In Hong Kong, human rights education is neither a part of education policy nor an independent subject at schools. It is incorporated in the school-based subject of Moral and Civic Education with some topics included in subjects like General Studies and Liberal Studies. However, human rights education and the discussion of rights-related topics have been sidelined under the framework of strengthening education on national development and national security. Since 2019, the HKSAR government has effectively censored contents related to human rights and democracy in school textbooks.[8] Last year, the EDB also announced a controversial overhaul of the Liberal Studies curriculum. These changes send a strong message that human rights education is not adequately respected in the education policies of the HKSAR government.

Recommendations:

  • Ensure that all key education policies and guidelines for schools, especially those related to national security, are human rights compliant in accordance with the requirements of UN guidelines on ensuring the right to education[9]
  • Promote the development of strategies, policies, and programmes to implement human rights education and training, such as through its integration into school and training curricula. Human rights education should be valued and strengthened in the education policies of the HKSAR government, with equal importance and priority as the education of national values, moral and civic values, anti-discrimination, cultural identity, and other important concepts crucial to children’s development
  • Provide adequate training in human rights for officials involved in the policymaking and implementation of education policies, teachers, trainers, and other educators
  • Refrain from arbitrarily interfering with school policies without prior adequate consultation of the school management bodies and restricting students’ freedom of peaceful expression on campus out of national security consideration

Reported torture and other ill-treatment of children in conflict with the law (Article 37)

In a number of media reports published in 2017children recalled being tortured and otherwise ill-treated in detention centers and training centers for young people aged 14 to 24They reported being subjected to physical punishment, being barred from going to the toilet, and being slapped and insulted by correctional officers.21 Reports also alleged that in 2020 officers insulted and beat inmates’ feet and palms with wooden rods, metal rulers, and batons at Pik Uk Correctional Institution for males under 21.[10]

Recommendations: 

  • Take immediate and effective measures to ensure that deprivation of children’s liberty, including before trial, is a measure of last resort and implemented for the shortest appropriate period of time 
  • Ensure that force or restraint is used only when children pose an imminent threat of injury to themselves or others, and only when all less intrusive means of control have been exhaustedIt should not be used to ensure compliance 
  • Disciplinary measures in violation of Article37 of the Convention must be strictly forbidden, including corporal punishment, placement in a dark cell, solitary confinement, or any other punishment that may compromise the physical or mental health or well-being of the child concerned 
  • Conduct promptimpartial, independent, and effective investigations into allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in juvenile correctional facilities 
  • Reform the existing oversight and complaint mechanism to allow victims of torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment to lodge complaints safely without fear of retaliation

[1] Government of the HKSAR, “LCQ22: Restricting students’ freedom of expression”, press release, 8 July 2020

[2] Education Bureau, Government of the HKSAR, “National Security: Specific Measures for Schools”, 4 February 2021
[3] Education Bureau, Government of the HKSAR, “Letters from SED to school principals”, 10 June 2020
[4] Amnesty International, “Hong Kong: New national security guidelines on schools further stifle freedom of expression on campus” (Press Release, 5 February 2021); Amnesty International, “Hong Kong: Education must not be censored after teacher stripped of license for ‘promoting independence’” (Press Release, 6 October 2020).
[5] Principle 6 of Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information; Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 34, Article 19, Freedoms of opinion and expression, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/34.
[6] Article 29 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
[7] UN General Assembly, Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, UN Doc. A/RES/66/137, art. 7.
[8] Rachel Wong, “Activist sets up online archive to highlight ‘political’ editing of Hong Kong school textbooks”, Hong Kong Free Press, 14 December 2020; Kelly Ho, “Hong Kong teachers’ union raises concerns over censorship as publishers revise textbooks after gov’t review”, Hong Kong Free Press, 19 August 2020
[9] UNESCO, Right to Education Handbook (2019), pp. 118-121; UN General Assembly, Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, UN Doc. A/RES/66/137.
[10] Rachel Wong, “Hong Kong prisons need independent monitor, say activists, as ex-detainees allege abuse”, Hong Kong Free Press, 6 May 2020; Jessie Pang, “Young Hong Kong democracy protester says he was beaten by prison guards”, Reuters, 28 August 2020

For reading the full text of the submission, please download through the link below:

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