China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Hong Kong
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
On January 27, individuals suspected of being central Chinese government security service officers escorted businessman Xiao Jianhua, one of the country’s richest persons, out of a hotel in the SAR and then transported him to the mainland, according to media reports. Xiao’s family reported him missing on January 28 but withdrew the report the next day. Xiao’s company published a front-page advertisement in a local newspaper stating he had not been abducted but rather was “recuperating abroad.” As of June central government authorities had not responded to the SAR government’s request for information about the case, according to the South China Morning Post. Xiao’s abduction renewed fears that mainland security services did not respect the SAR’s high degree of autonomy specified under the “one country, two systems” framework.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, but there were isolated reports of degrading treatment in prisons. There were also some reports police used excessive force.
There were no reports of death in custody due to excessive police force.
In February a court sentenced seven police officers to two years in prison for assaulting Ken Tsang, a prodemocracy activist, in 2014. The officers were suspended from duty. All were later released on bail, pending their appeals. Video footage taken during 2014 protests showed plainclothes police officers abusing Tsang. Prosecutors separately charged Tsang with assaulting and obstructing police officers, and in May 2016 Tsang was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest and was sentenced to five weeks in prison.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
There were some isolated reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions.
Administration: The government investigated allegations of problematic conditions and documented the results in a publicly accessible manner. There was an external Office of the Ombudsman. Several activists and former inmates claimed prisoners suffered abuses. For example, prodemocracy activist Joshua Wong publicly claimed that prisoners were forced to squat naked while answering questions and that five prison staff members pressured him to retract complaints while he was in juvenile detention. Activists urged the government to establish an independent prisoner complaint mechanism in order to protect inmates from retaliation for complaints.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted media outlets, legislators, and human rights groups to conduct prison visits. Justices of the peace visited prisons and may make suggestions and comments on matters, such as the physical environment of facilities, overcrowding, staff improvement, training and recreational programs and activities, and other matters affecting the welfare of inmates.
Improvements: In January the partial redevelopment of Tai Lam Center for Women added space for 128 women inmates, alleviating the overcrowding problem for women in high-security prisons.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Hong Kong Police Force maintains internal security and reports to the SAR’s Security Bureau. The People’s Liberation Army is responsible for external security. The Immigration Department controls the entry of persons into and out of the SAR as well as the documentation of local residents. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.
Multiple sources reported that mainland operatives in the SAR monitored some prodemocracy movement figures, political activists, lawyers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and academics who expressed criticism of the central government’s policies. Media also reported that police intimidated, arrested, and assaulted activists and protesters during President Xi Jinping’s July visit to the SAR. During the visit, some activists said they were assaulted by pro-Beijing groups. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.
Members of focus groups expressed concern that the chief executive appointed all Independent Police Complaints Committee members, according to a South China Morning Post report. Activists previously noted the committee’s lack of power to conduct independent investigations limited its oversight capacity.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Police generally apprehended suspects openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official. Arrested persons must be charged within 48 hours or released, and the government respected this right. Interviews of suspects are required to be videotaped. The law provides accused persons with the right to a prompt judicial determination, and authorities effectively respected this right.
Detainees were generally informed promptly of charges against them. There was a functioning bail system, and authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer of their choice. Suspects were not detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the SAR government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials were by jury except at the magistrate and district court level. An attorney is provided at public expense if defendants cannot afford counsel. Defendants had adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and the right to a trial without undue delay, and defendants could confront and question witnesses testifying against them and present witnesses to testify on their own behalf. Defendants have the right of appeal, the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and the right to be present at their trial.
Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence except in official corruption cases. Under the law a current or former government official who maintained a standard of living above that commensurate with his or her official income, or who controls monies or property disproportionate to his official income, is considered guilty of an offense unless he can satisfactorily explain the discrepancy. The courts upheld this ordinance. The government conducted court proceedings in either Chinese or English, the SAR’s two official languages. The government provided interpretation service to those not conversant in Cantonese or English during all criminal court proceedings.
The SAR’s courts are charged with interpreting those provisions of the Basic Law that address matters within the limits of the SAR’s autonomy. The courts also interpret provisions of the Basic Law that relate to central government responsibilities or on the relationship between the central authorities and the SAR. Before making its final judgments on these matters, which are not subject to appeal, the Court of Final Appeal may seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the central government’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). The Basic Law requires that courts follow the NPCSC’s interpretations where cases intersect with central government jurisdiction, although judgments previously rendered are not affected. On five occasions in the past, the NPCSC issued interpretations of the Basic Law. The most recent interpretation was issued without any request for interpretation from a SAR court. Activists and other observers expressed concerns that the central government had encroached on the judiciary’s independence through the NPCSC’s interpretations of the Basic Law.
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 access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or the cessation of, human rights violations.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the SAR government failed to respect these prohibitions. There were reports mainland security services monitored prodemocracy and human rights activists.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. Although the SAR continued to be viewed as relatively uncorrupt, there were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.
Corruption: In February former chief executive Donald Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in jail for misconduct while in public office in connection with a below-market lease. Tsang appealed the sentence.
Financial Disclosure: The SAR requires the 27 most senior civil service officials to declare their financial investments annually and the approximately 3,100 senior working-level officials to do so biennially. Policy bureaus may impose additional reporting requirements for positions seen as having a greater risk of conflict of interest. The Civil Service Bureau monitors and verifies disclosures, which are available to the public. There are criminal and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.