2014 Human Rights Reports: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) - Macau

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
June 25, 2015

This is the basic text view. SWITCH NOW to the new, more interactive format.

   

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYShare    

Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, under the SAR’s constitution (the Basic Law). A 400-member Election Committee re-elected Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on in August. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Prominent human rights problems reported during the year were limits on citizens’ ability to change their government, constraints on press and academic freedom, and failure to enforce fully laws regarding workers’ rights.

Trafficking in persons remained a problem, although authorities were building capacity to pursue trafficking cases. While there were continuing concerns national security legislation passed in accordance with article 23 of the Basic Law in 2009 could compromise various civil liberties, by year’s end prosecutors had filed no cases based on the legislation.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share    

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, abductions, or kidnappings.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers.

Physical Conditions: The Macau Prison, the SAR’s only prison, has a maximum capacity of 1,475 persons, and the occupancy rate as of June was approximately 83 percent of capacity. In the first half of the year, the number of inmates who were 16 (the age of criminal responsibility) and older was 1,230; of these, 1,021 were men and 209 were women. Offenders between the ages of 12 and 16 were subject to an “education regime” that, depending on the offense, could include incarceration. During the first half of the year, authorities held approximately 20 youths in the Youth Correctional Institution.

Prisoners had access to potable water and adequate food and sanitation.

Administration: The government’s recordkeeping procedures were adequate. The government continued to use alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders. Ombudsmen were able to serve prisoners and detainees. Authorities allowed prisoners and detainees reasonable access to visitors. Inmates are eligible for a weekly one-hour visit, with video visits arranged when necessary. Inmates with children may apply for weekend visits in a designated family room. Authorities permitted religious observance, including organized activities held within the prison. The law allows prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of alleged deficiencies, and judges and prosecutors made monthly visits to prisons to hear prisoner complaints.

Independent Monitoring: According to the government, no independent human rights observers requested or made any visit to the Macau Prison. Judges and prosecutors visited the prison at least monthly.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Public Security Police (general law enforcement) and the Judiciary Police (criminal investigations), and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish official abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Authorities detained persons openly with warrants issued by a duly authorized official based on sufficient evidence. Detainees had access to a lawyer of their choice or, if indigent, to one provided by the government. Detainees had prompt access to family members. Police must present persons in custody to an examining judge within 48 hours of detention. The examining judge, who conducts a pretrial inquiry in criminal cases, has wide powers to collect evidence, order or dismiss indictments, and determine whether to release detained persons. According to the government, courts should try defendants within the “shortest period of time.” Investigations by the prosecuting attorney should end with charges or dismissal within eight months, or six months when the defendant is in detention. The pretrial inquiry stage must be concluded within four months, or two months if the defendant is detained. By law the maximum limits for pretrial detention range from six months to three years, depending on the charges and progress of the judicial process. Judges often refused bail in cases where sentences could exceed three years.

There were three complaints of police mistreatment reported to the authorities during the first six months of the year; two of the cases were referred to prosecutors, and one case remained in disciplinary proceedings. There were no reported deaths in police custody or in prisons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.

The courts may rule on matters that are the responsibility of the PRC government or concern the relationship between central authorities and the SAR, but before making their final judgment, which is not subject to appeal, the courts must seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. When the standing committee makes an interpretation of the provisions concerned, the courts, in applying those provisions, “shall follow the interpretation of the standing committee.”

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. A case may be presided over by one judge or a group of judges, depending on the type of crime and the maximum penalty involved.

Under the law defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases, and have a right to appeal. The law provides that trials be public and by jury except when the court rules otherwise to “safeguard the dignity of persons, public morality, or to ensure the normal functioning of the court.” Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges (with free interpretation), be present at their trials, confront witnesses, have adequate time to prepare a defense, not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. The government provides public attorneys for those financially incapable of engaging lawyers or paying expenses of proceedings. The law extends these rights to all residents.

The judiciary provided citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process. A lack of administrative capacity delayed the adjudication of both civil and criminal cases during the year.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, and citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Due to an overloaded court system, a period of up to a year often passed between the filing of a civil case and its scheduled hearing.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. The Office for Personal Data Protection acknowledged a continuing increase in complaints and inquiries regarding data protection.

Activists critical of the government reported the government monitored their telephone conversations.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share    

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights.

The law criminalizes treason, secession, subversion of the PRC government, and theft of “state secrets,” as well as “acts in preparation” to commit these offenses. The crimes of treason, secession, and subversion specifically require the use of violence, and the government stated it would not use the law to infringe on peaceful political activism or media freedom.

Press Freedoms: The independent media were active and expressed a wide range of views, and international media operated freely. The government heavily subsidized major newspapers, which tended to follow closely the PRC government’s policy on sensitive political issues, such as Taiwan; however, they generally reported freely on the SAR, including criticism of the SAR government.

Violence and Harassment: On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, security agents and government officials forcefully stopped a journalist from approaching Chief Executive Fernando Chui for an interview. On June 21, security guards dragged a journalist from an online media group out of a congregation hall at the University of Macau for photographing from a distance a graduate who was silently protesting.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Activists raised concerns over media self-censorship, particularly because news outlets and journalists worried certain types of coverage critical of the government might limit government funding. Activists also reported the government had co-opted senior media managers to serve in various consultative or election committees, which also resulted in self-censorship. Journalists expressed concern the government’s limiting of news releases about its own activities and its publishing of legal notices only in preferred media outlets influenced editorial content.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

According to the Statistics and Census Service, as of July there were 288,008 internet subscribers out of a population of 607,500. This total did not take into account multiple internet users for one subscription, nor did it factor in those who accessed the internet through mobile devices.

The law criminalizes a range of cybercrimes and empowers police, with a court warrant, to order internet service providers to retain and provide authorities with a range of data. Some legislators expressed concern the law granted police authority to take these actions without a court order under some circumstances.

Twitter, which was banned on the mainland, was available on the government-provided free Wi-Fi service. Activists reported they freely used Facebook and Twitter to communicate. Activists also reported the government had installed enterprise-grade software capable of censoring, decrypting, and scanning secured transmissions on its free Wi-Fi service without notifying users.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Universities demoted or fired several academics reportedly due to political activities that put them at odds with the government. The University of St. Joseph fired researcher Eric Sautede after he organized a lecture by a guest speaker critical of the Chinese Communist Party. The same university demoted Sautede’s wife, Emilie Tran, in connection with her involvement in the same lecture. Meanwhile, the University of Macau suspended and later fired Bill Chou, an associate professor and political activist, charging he had forced his political beliefs on his students. The authorities allegedly targeted other professors for expressing political dissent. The SAR’s universities lacked a tenure system, leaving professors vulnerable to dismissal for political reasons.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right. The law requires prior notification, but not approval, of demonstrations involving public roads, public places, or places open to the public. In cases where authorities tried to restrict access to public venues for demonstrations or other public events, the courts generally ruled in favor of the applicants. Police may redirect demonstration marching routes, and organizers have the right to challenge such decisions in court.

Activists reported police routinely attempted to intimidate demonstrators by ostentatiously taking videos of them and advising bystanders not to participate in protests. Activists also stated authorities gave orders to demonstrators verbally rather than through written communication, which made it difficult to challenge their decisions in court. Authorities detained and later released five activists on August 24 as they attempted to conduct a survey-based “civil referendum” regarding the method for electing the SAR’s chief executive. Authorities alleged the canvassers’ collection of personal identification information was an “illegitimate” use of such data. Activists questioned the legal basis for this charge since survey respondents provided the information voluntarily.

On May 25, a reported 20,000 residents protested peacefully against proposed new retirement benefits and legal immunities for senior officials, the largest demonstration since Macau’s 1999 reversion to Chinese sovereignty. On June 4, approximately 2,000 persons participated in a vigil at Senado Square to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. No authorization is required to form an association, and the only restrictions on forming an organization are that it not promote racial discrimination, violence, crime, or disruption of public order, or be military or paramilitary in nature. The SAR registered 573 new organizations from July 2013 to July.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The Immigration Department cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

The Internal Security Law grants police the authority to deport or deny entry to nonresidents whom they regard under the law as unwelcome, as a threat to internal security and stability, or as possibly implicated in transnational crimes.

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In theory persons granted refugee status ultimately enjoy the same rights as other SAR residents. The government is responsible for conducting refugee status determinations, but this process remained stalled during the year, according to the UNHCR. Authorities maintained that four pending applications for refugee status for a total of six individuals remained active. The head of the SAR’s Refugee Commission made clear that resource shortages and other priorities meant resolution of the cases would likely take several years.

Pending final decisions on their asylum claims, the government registered asylum seekers and provided protection against their expulsion or return to their countries of origin. Persons with pending applications were eligible to receive government support, including basic needs such as housing, medical care, and education for children.

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentShare    

The law limits citizens’ ability to change their government. Only a small fraction of citizens play a role in the selection of the chief executive, who was chosen in August by a 400-member Election Committee consisting of 344 members elected from four broad societal sectors (which have a limited franchise) and 56 members chosen from among the SAR’s legislators and representatives to the NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On August 31, a 400-member selection committee re-elected Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-On. Chui ran unopposed and won 96 percent of the vote. The most recent general election for the 14 directly elected seats in the 33-member Legislative Assembly occurred in September 2013. A total of 145 candidates on 20 electoral lists competed for the seats. The election for these seats was generally free and fair.

There are limits on the types of bills legislators may introduce. The law stipulates that legislators may not initiate legislation related to public expenditure, the SAR’s political structure, or the operation of the government. Proposed legislation related to government policies must receive the chief executive’s written approval before it is introduced. The Legislative Assembly also has no power of confirmation over executive or judicial appointments.

A 10-member Executive Council functions as an unofficial cabinet, approving draft legislation before it is presented in the Legislative Assembly. The Basic Law stipulates that the chief executive appoint members of the Executive Council from among the principal officials of the executive authorities, members of the legislature, and public figures.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The SAR has no laws on political parties. Politically active groups registered as societies or companies and were active in promoting their political agendas. Those critical of the government generally did not face restrictions. Such groups participated in protests over government policies or proposed legislation without restriction.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were seven women in the 33-member Legislative Assembly, including five of the 14 directly elected members. Women also held a number of senior positions throughout the government, including the secretary for justice and administration, the second-highest official in the SAR government. The Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau stated women made up 42 percent of the SAR government, 56 percent of the judiciary, and 46 percent of the senior staff of the Legislative Assembly. One Executive Council member was from an ethnic minority, as was the police commissioner general. As of June, 38 female judges worked in the judiciary.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and there were few reported cases of officials engaging in corrupt acts.

Corruption: The government’s Commission Against Corruption (CAC) investigated the public and private sectors and had the power to arrest and detain suspects. The Ombudsman Bureau within the CAC reviewed complaints of mismanagement or abuse by the CAC. There was also an independent committee outside the CAC called the Monitoring Committee on Discipline of CAC Personnel, which accepted and reviewed complaints about CAC personnel. The CAC regularly detected fraud in the government and private sectors. In October it announced it had uncovered a case of four persons who defrauded the government’s Environmental Protection and Energy Conservation Fund of 800,000 Macau patacas (MOP, equivalent to $100,000). The CAC transferred the case to the Public Prosecutions Office.

Financial Disclosure: By law the chief executive, cabinet, judges, members of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council, and executive agency directors must disclose their financial interests upon appointment, promotion, retirement, and at five-year intervals while in the same position.

Public Access to Information: The law does not provide for public access to government information. Nevertheless, the executive branch published online, in both Portuguese and Chinese, extensive information on laws, regulations, ordinances, government policies and procedures, and biographies of principal government officials. The government also issued a daily press release on topics of public concern. The information provided by the legislature was less extensive.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare    

Domestic and international groups monitoring human rights generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare    

The law stipulates that residents shall be free from discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and many laws carry specific prohibitions against discrimination. The government effectively enforced the law. The law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government effectively enforced the law. Police received 10 complaints of rape and made five arrests during the first six months of the year.

Although there is no specific law on domestic violence, the government used effectively laws criminalizing the relevant behaviors to prosecute domestic violence. Various NGOs and government officials considered domestic violence against women to be a growing problem. Domestic violence falls under several crimes in the criminal code, including the crime of mistreatment of minors, persons with incapacity, or spouses. These crimes are punishable with imprisonment ranging from one to five years. If mistreatment leads to serious physical injuries or death of the victim, the penalties may be increased to imprisonment of two to eight years in cases involving physical injury and five to 15 years in those resulting in death. There were 185 reported cases of domestic violence in the first six months of the year.

The government made referrals for victims to receive medical treatment, and medical social workers counseled victims and informed them of social welfare services. During the first half of the year, the Social Welfare Bureau (SWB) handled 70 domestic violence cases. The government funded NGOs to provide victim support services, including medical services, family counseling, and housing, until their complaints were resolved. The government also supported two 24-hour hotlines, one for counseling and the other for reporting domestic violence cases.

NGOs and religious groups sponsored programs for victims of domestic violence, and the government supported and helped fund these organizations and programs. The Bureau for Family Action, a government organization subordinate to the Department of Family and Community of the Social Welfare Institute, helped female victims of domestic violence by providing a safe place for them and their children, and by providing advice regarding legal actions against perpetrators. A range of counseling services was available to persons who requested them at social service centers. Two government-supported religious programs also offered rehabilitation programs for female victims of violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No laws prohibit FGM/C, and the practice did not occur.

Sexual Harassment: There is no law specifically addressing sexual harassment, unless it involves the use of a position of authority to coerce the performance of physical acts. Harassment in general is prohibited under laws governing equal opportunity, employment and labor rights, and labor relations.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and the right to both fertility and contraceptive treatment, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on family planning, contraception, and prenatal care was widely available, as was skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care.

Discrimination: Equal opportunity legislation mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work. Discrimination in hiring practices based on gender or physical ability is prohibited by law, and penalties exist for employers who violate these guidelines. The law allows for civil suits, but few women took cases to the Labor Affairs Bureau (LAB) or other entities. Gender differences in occupation existed, with women concentrated in lower-paid sectors and lower-level jobs. Observers estimated there was a significant difference in salaries between men and women, particularly in unskilled jobs. The CAC received one complaint of gender discrimination during the first six months of the year.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the Basic Law, children of Chinese national residents of Macau who were born in or outside the SAR and children born to non-Chinese national permanent residents inside the SAR are regarded as permanent residents. There is no differentiation between these categories in terms of access to registration of birth. Most births were registered immediately.

Child Abuse: No new cases of child abuse were reported to the authorities during the first six months of the year. The SAR’s Health Bureau handled six suspected child abuse cases during the year, most of which it transferred to appropriate governmental or non-governmental institutions for follow up after hospitalization. In addition to providing measures to combat abuse, neglect, and violence against children by criminal law, the law establishes relief measures for children at risk. In this regard the SWB reported it handled three cases of abuse or neglect during the year.

Forced and Early Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 16. Children between ages 16 and 18 who wish to marry must get approval from their parents or guardians.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No laws prohibit FGM/C, and the practice did not occur.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law specifically provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procurement involving minors. The criminal code sets 14 years as the age of sexual consent and 16 as the age for participation in the legal sex trade. The law prohibits child pornography. There were three reported cases of child sexual abuse and three reported cases of rape of a minor during the first six months of the year. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern “child sex tourism remains a serious problem in the SAR, and that alleged complicity of government officials in trafficking and sexual exploitation related offences has led to impunity for such crimes.” The government denied the allegations.

International Child Abductions: The SAR is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was extremely small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings, public facilities, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. The government enforced the law effectively. The government provides a variety of services to persons with disabilities, including discounted fares on wheelchair-accessible public transportation. The Social Welfare Institute was primarily responsible for coordinating and funding public assistance programs to persons with disabilities. There was a governmental commission to rehabilitate persons with disabilities, with part of the commission’s scope of work addressing employment. There were no reports of children with disabilities encountering obstacles to attending school.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the government has made efforts to address the complaints of individuals of Portuguese descent and the Macanese minority, members of these two groups continued to claim they were not treated equally by the Chinese majority. While they participated in political and cultural circles, some activists claimed businesses refused to hire employees who were not ethnic Chinese.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation or same-sex sexual contact and no prohibition against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons forming organizations or associations. There were no reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT groups openly held several public events, and one registered LGBT group openly lobbied for an extension of protections to same-sex couples in a draft law on domestic violence.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and limits the number of required disclosures of an individual’s HIV status. Employees outside medical fields are not required to declare their status to employers. There were anecdotal reports of persons whose status became known, as well as organizations supporting them, facing discrimination. There were no reported incidents of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers the right to form and join unions or “labor associations” of their choice. The law does not provide that workers can collectively bargain, and while workers have the right to strike, there is no specific protection in the law from retribution if workers exercise this right. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, stating employees or job seekers shall not be prejudiced, deprived of any rights, or exempted from any duties on the basis of their membership in an association. The law does not require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity.

Workers in certain professions, such as the security forces, are forbidden to form unions, take part in protests, or to strike. Such groups had organizations that provided welfare and other services to members and could speak to the government on behalf of members. Vulnerable groups of workers, including domestic workers and migrant workers, could freely associate and form and join unions, as could public servants.

In order to register as an official union, the government requires an organization to provide the names and personal information of its leadership structure. There is no law specifically defining the status and function of labor unions, nor are employers compelled to negotiate with them. The law provides that agreements between employers and workers shall be valid, but there is no specific statutory provision giving workers, resident or foreign, the right to collective bargaining. The government asserted striking employees are protected from retaliation by provisions of the law requiring an employer to have justified cause to dismiss an employee.

The government generally enforced the relevant legislation. The law imposes penalties ranging from MOP 20,000 to 50,000 ($2,500 to $6,300) for antiunion discrimination. Observers noted this may not be sufficient to deter discriminatory activity.

Workers who believed they were dismissed unlawfully could bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the LAB or the CAC, which also has an Ombudsman Bureau to handle complaints over administrative violations. The bureau makes recommendations to the relevant government departments after its investigation.

Even without formal collective bargaining rights, companies often negotiated with unions, although the government regularly acted as an intermediary. There was no indication disputes or appeals were subject to lengthy delays. Pro-PRC unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in collective bargaining. The Macau Federation of Trade Unions acts as an adviser and assistant to those filing complaints to the LAB, which is responsible for adjudicating labor disputes.

There were at least eight labor strikes involving several thousand casino workers during the year. In January approximately 100 casino dealers from a local gaming operator went on strike over what they deemed to be an insufficient annual bonus. Management quickly resolved the issue by doubling the dealers’ annual bonus. On August 25, approximately 1,400 casino workers took to the streets to demand better pay and working conditions. Union leaders claimed the government maintained a “blacklist” of labor “agitators,” but there were no new cases reported of antiunion discrimination.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Penalties range from three to 12 years’ imprisonment with the minimum and maximum sentences increased by one-third if the victim is under the age of 14. Observers noted these penalties generally were considered sufficient to deter the use of forced labor. The government has a special, interagency unit to fight human trafficking, the Human Trafficking Deterrent Measures Concern Committee. In addition to holding seminars to raise awareness about human trafficking, the committee operates two 24-hour telephone hotlines, one for reporting trafficking, and another to assist trafficking victims.

There were reports forced labor occurred in conjunction with commercial sexual exploitation of migrant women.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

A chief executive’s order prohibits minors under the age of 16 from working, although minors between ages 14 and 16 may work in “exceptional circumstances” if they obtain a health certificate to prove they have the “necessary robust physique to engage in a professional activity.” The decree does not define “exceptional circumstances.” Local laws do not establish specific regulations governing the number of hours children under 16 can work. The law governing the number of working hours (eight hours a day, 40 hours a week) was equally applicable to adults and legal working minors, but the law prohibits minors from working overtime hours.

Minors below age 16 are forbidden from certain types of work, including but not limited to domestic work, employment between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and at places where admission of minors is forbidden, such as casinos. The government requires employers to conduct an assessment of the nature, extent, and duration of risk exposure at work before recruiting or employing a minor. These regulations are intended to protect children from physically hazardous work, including exposure to dangerous chemicals, and jobs deemed inappropriate due to the child’s age. In the SAR, this includes casinos, where secondhand smoke constitutes a health hazard.

The LAB enforced the law through periodic and targeted inspections, and prosecuted violators. Information on the penalties for violations was not available. Employers are obligated to provide professional training and working conditions appropriate to a minor’s age to prevent situations that undermine his/her education and could endanger health, safety, and physical and mental development.

In practice, child labor did occur. Some children reportedly worked in family-operated or small businesses, while others were subject to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment or Occupation

Local law requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.

Under the law migrant workers enjoy treatment equal to that of local workers, including the same rights, obligations, and remuneration. According to official statistics, at the end of July there were 158,234 nonresident workers who accounted for approximately 26 percent of the population. They came mostly from the mainland PRC, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Most of them worked in the restaurant and hotel industry, but others found employment as domestic servants, in the gaming and entertainment sectors, or in construction and retail trade. They frequently complained of discrimination in the workplace.

The Basic Law and the Labor Relations Law prohibit discrimination on a wide variety of bases. The Basic Law holds that all residents shall be equal before the law and shall be free from discrimination, irrespective of their nationality descent, race, sex, language, religion, political persuasion or ideological belief, educational level, economic status, or social conditions. The Labor Relations Law expands on this list to include discrimination on the basis of national or social origin, descent, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, language, religion, political or ideological beliefs, membership of associations, education, or economic background (see Section 6, Women). Neither set of laws explicitly prohibits discrimination of the basis of HIV status.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements. There is no mandatory minimum wage except for government-outsourced security guards and cleaners and foreign domestic workers at MOP 26 ($3.26) per hour. The SAR does not calculate an official poverty line, and its median monthly income is approximately $1,625. The law provides for a 48-hour workweek (many businesses operated on a 40-hour workweek), an eight-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. The law provides for a 24-hour rest period each week. The law does not define “temporary contract” or “short-term contract.” It states only that a labor contract may be either for a defined term or of indefinite duration. All workers employed in the SAR, whether under a term contract or an indefinite contract, are entitled to such benefits as specified working hours, weekly leave, statutory holidays, annual leave, and sick leave. Part-time workers and workers on temporary contracts are excluded.

The law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment, and the LAB sets occupational safety and health standards. The law prohibits excessive overtime but permits legal overtime (up to eight hours, and irrespective of workers’ consent) in force majeure cases or as a response to external shocks, at the discretion of the employer.

All workers, including migrants, have access to the courts in cases in which an employee is unlawfully dismissed, an employer fails to pay compensation, or a worker believes his/her legitimate interests were violated. Employers can dismiss staff “without just cause” on condition they provide economic compensation indexed to an employee’s length of service.

The LAB provides assistance and legal advice to workers upon request, and cases of labor-related malpractices are referred to the LAB. Data on the number of cases assisted by the LAB during the year was not available. In addition the LAB could charge the worker or union a fee to process such complaints.

The LAB enforced occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions could lead to prosecution. There were approximately 140 labor inspectors in the country, almost all of whom held university degrees and most of whom had more than five years’ experience. Health Bureau guidelines protect pregnant workers and those with heart and lung diseases from exposure to secondhand smoke by exempting them from work in smoking areas.

Local employers favored unwritten labor contracts of indefinite duration, except in the case of migrant workers, who were issued written contracts for specified terms. Labor groups reported employers increasingly used temporary contracts to circumvent obligations to pay for worker benefits such as pensions, sick leave, and paid holidays. The short-term nature of written contracts made it easier to dismiss workers through nonrenewal. Some workers also reported being dismissed for refusing to work in unhealthy environments.

The SAR recorded 3,589 workplace accidents during the first six months of the year. Authorities recorded seven workplace fatalities, of which four were judged to have possible links to the individuals’ pre-existing health conditions. Most workplace injuries reported were minor, with one in seven injured workers returning to their duties the same day. A workplace injury permanently incapacitated one person.