Joint statement on refugee debate in HK

Posted by Peter MUIR


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Issues related to conflict, famine, persecution are increasing the number of people fleeing their home countries in numbers never seen before.  Hong Kong is not immune from being involved in issues related to refugees and asylum seekers. Like many countries of the world, the last six months has seen an increased focused on the refugees and asylum seekers coming to Hong Kong to seek refuge.  Language used by the media and politicians has lead to increases in public concerns about refugees taking Hong Kong’s limited resources, even to the point where the HK government is looking at denouncing the UN’s ‘Convention on Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’.  Some have even suggested that the government set up a refugee camp outside of Hong Kong to deter refugees coming to HK.

Below is a statement released by groups and individuals concerned about this issue and the possible misunderstanding of it by the public in HK.  Take a look at consider the role of the media in public perception of issues of public concern.  Also have a think about how you could get involved in addressing this issue as a part of your Community Engagement.

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are increasingly concerned that recent inaccurate and irresponsible comments made regarding the refugee issue in Hong Kong are divisive and inflammatory. These comments are fueling a climate of fear and hostility towards both refugees and ethnic minorities alike, and run the risk of fracturing Hong Kong’s diverse and vibrant community. If negative stereotyping and hostile attitudes are repeatedly placed in the public eye in this way, xenophobia and discrimination against both refugees and ethnic minorities will continue to increase.

For this reason we cannot in good conscience allow this to continue – it is undermining Hong Kong’s social harmony. Instead, care must be taken not to exaggerate the refugee situation, nor to legitimize any form of discrimination. In shared concern, we are joined together to send out a call for calm. The politics of fear do not belong in Hong Kong. It is time for a sober and more reasoned approach.

We acknowledge that concerns have been raised following an increase in the number of protection claimants in Hong Kong and apparent abuses of the system. These concerns must be listened to, but matters must be kept in perspective, and international law should be upheld. In fact, Hong Kong actually has low levels of refugees. There is nothing remotely like a crisis and there is no need to search for dramatic measures – instead we must face up to the need to reduce delays, and to address the obvious inefficiencies in the Unified Screening Mechanism (‘USM’) system. These are complex problems, and so require nuanced approaches as well as constructive and informed dialogue, rather than resorting to divisions and blame.

Some of the proposals that have been put forward – such as Hong Kong’s withdrawal from UN Convention Against Torture (‘UNCAT’) or closed detention camps – are ill-advised, disproportionate and rash; and some are in breach of international law. Not only would withdrawal from UNCAT fail to address the concerns raised about the refugee situation, but it would roll back the rights and protections of every resident of Hong Kong against being tortured, or exposed to other abuse. This would affect us all, and we should therefore resolutely defend the continued respect for international law. At present, Hong Kong rightly enjoys a reputation as a responsible and valued member of the modern international community. But withdrawal from UNCAT would be an embarrassing step backwards for a forward-looking city. Put simply, Hong Kong is better than this.

Equally, the mass detention of those seeking sanctuary is a draconian measure and which may violate principals of international law. It cannot be the answer. Not only would it be an expensive use of public funds and an extreme overreaction, it would merely warehouse the issue, and likely cause significant harm to those who are already highly vulnerable. There are plenty of international examples to highlight the failures and problems of detention. The UNHCR have repeatedly expressed their concern over the detention of people seeking international protection.

We are therefore now calling upon all parties, including the Hong Kong Government, to work together collaboratively in ensuring that a message goes out that is loud and clear – discrimination has no place in our society. We must not allow fear-mongering and short-sighted politics to erode human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong. We can no longer be complacent about the negative portrayal of ethnic minorities and refugees.

The implications of these changes in rhetoric are very concerning and can already be felt on the ground: more landlords are now blatantly refusing to rent already-difficult to find accommodations with our clients’ limited monthly budget of HK$1,500; signage and graffiti on the streets and social media posts slandering refugees and calling the government to refuse entry are becoming more commonplace; public officials have openly disclosed their lack of support for offering protection to refugees, while more reports have been made about mistreatment and racial profiling by police, etc. The list continues.

Much of the concern is related to the potential abuse of the Unified Screening Mechanism (USM), designed to screen and offer protection and access to minimal humanitarian welfare assistance to persons fleeing torture, persecution, war, genocide, and other severe violations to their human rights. While it would be untruthful to claim that there is no abuse to the system, it is also untruthful to claim, as many institutional and public reports have, that all refugees in Hong Kong are “fake”. And rather than employing harmful band-aid solutions such as those proposed at a recent Panel on Security, what is needed, we believe, is a comprehensive, fair, and thorough review of the USM to increase not only its efficiency, but its fairness, transparency, and effectiveness to screen and flag the most vulnerable sufferers of inhumane and degrading treatment and offer them necessary protection and welfare.

A visit to our Centre for Refugees will quickly show anyone that there is little need to argue whether there are refugees in Hong Kong who are in genuine need of support and who are fleeing genuine threats to their lives in their countries of origin. Each month we see over 600 mothers and their children, unaccompanied minors, and victims of trauma and torture who are not here to work, but are instead to seek the safety our city offers from the atrocities they would face back home. Labeling them “fake” is not only untrue, but its impact is taking away what little protection and respite they have from severe issues which stop them from going back home.

While we remain committed to providing support to our clients, we anticipate that the road to seek better protection and welfare assistance will be rife with many challenges this year. We therefore call on your–our donors, partners, and volunteers–to walk with us as you have in the past so that refugees in Hong Kong are given the dignity, support, respect, and hope to overcome these difficult few years while they are here in our city.

Signed:

Organizations and Parties 機構及組織
617 Citizen Charter 六一七民間約章
Act Voice 精算思政
Action Q 大專同志行動
African Community of Hong Kong
Amnesty International Hong Kong 國際特赦組織香港分會
Amnesty International Club @ HKU
Artists Action 藝界起動
Asian Migrants Coordinating Body AMCB
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network 亞太地區難民權利組織
Association concerning sexual violence against women 關注婦女性暴力協會
Basel Mission Hong Kong
Cameroon Solidarity Union HK
Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL), Faculty of Law, HKU
Chosen Power (People First Hong Kong) 卓新力量
Christian Action 基督教勵行會
Church Refugee Ministry
City Concern of Christians Fellowship 基督徒社關團契
Civil Human Rights Front 民間人權陣線
Civic Party 公民黨
Cultural Outings 文化交遊
Comma Press
Daly & Associates 帝理律師行
Filguys Association Hong Kong
Free to Run
Frontline Tech Workers 前線科技人員
Franciscan Order Hong Kong JPIC Group 方濟會正義和平組
Friends of Conscience 良心之友
Football for Life Charity
Global Youth Connect
Grassroot Cultural Centre
Health in Action 醫護行者
Helpers for Domestic Helpers
Hong Kong Buildings Management and Security Workers General Union 香港物業管理及保安職工總會
Hong Kong Christian Institute 香港基督徒學會
Hong Kong Christian Council Justice and Social Concern Committee 香港基督教協進會社會公義與民生關注委員會
Hong Kong Christian Service 香港基督教服務處
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions 香港職工會聯盟
Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions 香港亞洲家務工工會聯會
Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres 香港婦女中心協會
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor 香港人權監察
Hong Kong Labour Party 工黨
Hong Kong Policy Viewers 香港政策透視
Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union 香港教育專業人員協會
Hong Kong Psychologists Concern 良心理政
Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union 香港社會工作者總工會
Hong Kong Unison 香港融樂會
Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association 香港婦女勞工協會
Hiu Lai Campaigning 曉麗關注Plus
Inter-Agency Forum, Members of
Interfaith Cooperation Forum
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
The Italian Women’s Association
IT Voice IT 呼聲
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese 香港天主教正義和平委員會
Justice Centre Hong Kong
KELY Support Group 啟勵扶青會
Kowloon Union Church 九龍佑寧堂
Labour Party 工黨
League in Defense of Hong Kong’s Freedoms 保衛香港自由聯盟
League of Social Democrats 社會民主連線
Left 21 左翼21
Love and Peace Ministry 仁愛和平事工
Methodist International Church 循道衛理會國際禮拜堂
Mission for Migrant Workers
Mission to New Arrivals Ltd 新福事工協會
One Body in Christ 基督眾樂教會
Open Door 家.傭同行
PIME Missionaries Social Concern Group
Pink Alliance 粉紅同盟
Progressive Lawyers Group 法政匯思
Progressive Teachers’ Alliance 進步教師聯盟
Queer Theology Academy 性神學社
Reclaiming Social Work Movement 社工復興運動
Refugee Concern Network 關注難民網絡
Right of Abode University 居留權大學
RiverGrace International Christian Fellowship
Social Justice Alliance
Society for Community Organization 香港社區組織協會
Society of St. Vincent De Paul, St. Teresa’s Parish Conference 聖德肋撒堂聖雲先會
Solomon’s Porch
St Andrew’s Church 聖公會聖安德烈堂
St John’s Cathedral 聖公會聖約翰座堂
Thai Migrant Worker’s Union 泰國移工工會
The Association for the Advancement of Feminism 新婦女協進會
The Department of Anthropology, CUHK
The Hong Kong Society for Asylum-seekers and Refugees 香港尋求庇護者及難民協會
The India Association Hong Kong 印度協會
The Italian Women’s Association
The Professional Commons 公共專業聯盟
The Zubain Foundation 小彬紀念基金會
Transgender Resource Center 跨性別資源中心
Union Church HK 香港佑寧堂
Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers in Hong Kong 香港尼泊爾家務勞動者工會
Umbrella Blossom 撐傘落區行動
Urban Refugees
Vidler & Co. Solicitors 韋智達律師行
Women Coalition of HKSAR 香港女同盟會
Women’s Studies Research Centre HKU
World Organisation Against Torture 世界禁止酷刑組織
民生議政
黃傘街頭基督徒基層團體

Individuals 個人
Azan MARWAH, Barrister at Law
Billy R. LEUNG, Open University of Hong Kong
Bill Lay, Secretary General of Civic Party, member of Election Committee ( Social Welfare Sector) 賴仁彪, 公民黨秘書長, 選舉委員會委員(社會福利界)
CHAN Billy Shiu Yeung, Sha Tin District Council Member 陳兆陽,沙田區議員
CHAN Chu Fung, Thomas, Hong Kong Community College 陳曙峰
CHAN Lih Shing, Alex, Hong Kong Institute of Education 章力行
CHAN M M Johannes
CHAN Yee May, Hong Kong Baptist University
CHEUK Ka Kin, Leiden University
CHENG Tat-hung, Eastern District Council Member 鄭達鴻,東區區議員
Connie KWOK, Registered Social Worker
Daniel LAM 林天祐傳道
Dr. Carmen TONG, Department of Sociology, HKU
Dr. HO Sik Ying, Petula, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, HKU 何式凝
Dr. Hon Fernando CHEUNG Chiu-hung, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員張超雄
Dr Hon KWOK Ka-ki, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員郭家麒議員
Dr. Barbara E. HARRELL-BOND, OBE
Dr. Lisa LIM, School of English, HKU
Dr. Mirana SZETO, Comparative Literature, HKU 司徒薇
Earl DENG, Barrister-at-Law 鄧鈞堤大律師
Farzana ASLAM, Faculty of Law, HKU
Father Franco MELLA 甘浩望神父
HO Wai Yip, Department of Social Sciences, Hong Kong Institute of Education 何偉業
Hon Alvin YEUNG Ngok-kiu, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員楊岳橋
Hon Claudia MO, Legislative Councillor 立法會議員毛孟靜
Hon Charles Peter MOK, JP 立法會議員莫乃光, JP
Hon CHEUNG Kwok Che, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員張國柱
Hon Dennis KWOK, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員郭榮鏗
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員劉慧卿, JP
Hon Kenneth LEUNG, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員梁繼昌
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員李卓人
Hon LEUNG Kwok-hung, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員梁國雄
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan, Legislative Councilor 立法會議員何俊仁
Hon IP Kin-yuen立法會議員葉建源
Jeffrey TAM, Barrister-at-Law 譚俊傑大律師
Joe Y.F. LAU, Philosophy Department, HKU
Jonathan MAN, Solicitor 文浩正律師
Karen KONG, Faculty of Law, HKU
Kelley LOPER, Faculty of Law, HKU
Ken, TSANG Kin Chiu, Civic Party & Social Worker 曾健超
Kevin YAM, Solicitor 任建峰律師
Kim KWOK, Caritas Institute of Higher Education
LAU Shu Wai Carl, Hong Kong Institute of Education 劉樹偉
LEE Kim Ming, Community College City University of Hong Kong 李劍明
LIONG Chan Ching, Mario, Centennial College
Lisa LEUNG, Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University
LO Kai Chung, Registered Social Worker, Community College of City University
LUI Ching Wu, Lake, Hong Kong Institute of Education 呂青湖
Margaret NG, Barrister at Law 吳靄儀大律師
Martin JONES, Lecturer in International Human Rights Law, University of York /Adjunct Professor at HKU
MOK KIN SHING KUNG KONG DISTRICT COUNILLOR 莫建成,觀塘區議員
NG Fung Sheung, Isabella, Hong Kong Institute of Education 伍鳳嫦
Paul ZIMMERMAN, Pokfulam District Councillor 司馬文, 薄扶林區議員
Philip J DYKES, Senior Counsel
Professor Johannes M M CHAN
Professor Noam CHOMSKY.
Oscar LAI Man Lok, Demosistō 黎汶洛
POON Wing-Lok, The University of Hong Kong 潘永樂
Professor Gordon MATTHEWS, Department of Anthropology, CUHK
Puja KAPAI, Faculty of Law, HKU
Randy SHEK, Barrister-at-Law 石書銘大律師
Rev. Paul CHAN 陳啟興牧師
Rob CONNELLY, Barrister-at-law
Robert TIBBO, Barrister at Law, Member of HK Bar Association
Sarah Howe
Shaphan MARWAH, Barrister at Law
SHIU Ka Chun, Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Hong Kong Baptist University 邵家臻
Simon YOUNG, Faculty of Law, HKU
Stephen FISHER 余志穩
Tim PARKER, Barrister-at-Law
Timothy O’LEARY, Head, School of Humanities, HKU
TO Ho Pong, Community College City University of Hong Kong
Vivek MAHBUBANI, Award winning bi-lingual stand up comedian
Wendy KWAN, Solicitor 關穎怡律師
Wilson LEUNG, Barrister-at-Law 梁允信大律師
WONG Wai Man, Natalie, HKUSPACE
Yantl SZE, Barrister-at-Law
Zachary WONG, Yuen Long District Councillor 黃偉賢,元朗區議員
Zoran POPOSKI, Hong Kong Institute of Education