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HKSAR Government delegation addresses concerns on situation of women's development in Hong Kong raised at meetings of UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women
     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government delegation, as part of the Chinese delegation, attended the meetings of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women held yesterday (May 12, Geneva time). The HKSAR delegation introduced to the Committee the parts relevant to HKSAR in the ninth report submitted by China according to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and responded to the questions of the Committee.

     A Government spokesperson said today (May 13), "The HKSAR Government delegation led by the Permanent Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs, Ms Shirley Lam, introduced the implementation of the CEDAW in the HKSAR and emphasised the full commitment of the Government to protect women against all forms of discrimination, injustice or violence. The delegation also answered the Committee's questions, addressed the Committee's concerns about the human rights situation and women's development in the HKSAR."
The Hong Kong National Security Law

     "In response to the Committee's concerns on the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL), the delegation clearly pointed out that Article 4 of the NSL clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in the HKSAR; the rights and freedoms which the residents of the HKSAR enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, shall be protected in accordance with the law. Any measures or enforcement actions taken under the NSL must observe the above principle. Hence, the rights and freedoms under the CEDAW are fully protected in Hong Kong."
Legal status of CEDAW
     "Regarding the Committee's questions on the legal status of the CEDAW in Hong Kong, the delegation pointed out that the provisions in the CEDAW are implemented by a wide range of legislative and administrative measures, such as the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap. 480), the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (Cap. 189), the Women's Commission (WoC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). These legislative and administrative measures are effective in guaranteeing the Convention rights to women in Hong Kong."
Participation of women in political and public order events
     "The delegation stressed that Article 26 of the Basic Law stipulates that all permanent residents of the HKSAR shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law. In HKSAR, women enjoy equal rights as men to vote in and stand for various public elections of the governance structure. Under the relevant legislation, a person's gender is not a criterion, whether direct or indirect, to vote in or stand for elections."
     "On the other hand, Hong Kong residents' freedoms of assembly and procession are fully protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. However, like any other jurisdictions, such rights are not absolute or unrestricted. One must observe the law when exercising his/her right of peaceful assembly. The Police have been handling public order events in accordance with the Public Order Ordinance and relevant laws, and will make comprehensive assessment of individual public order events to consider whether to issue a Letter of No Objection and impose corresponding conditions with regard to a public order event. If there is any illegal or violent act, the Police are duty bound to take appropriate actions to restore public safety and public order."

Foreign domestic helpers

     "Regarding the Committee's concern about the change of employer of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). The Government fully respects the rights of FDHs. Same as local workers, FDHs are protected under the Employment Ordinance. Additional benefits are also given under a Government-prescribed Standard Employment Contract. Under the Immigration Department (ImmD)'s prevailing policy, FDHs can terminate their contract and apply for change of employer, but they should leave Hong Kong and submit a fresh visa application. In exceptional circumstances such as migration of the original employer, abuse or exploitation experienced by the FDH, FDHs may apply to the ImmD for change of employer without first leaving Hong Kong. Save for the above exceptional circumstances, an application from an FDH for change of employer in Hong Kong within the two-year contract period will normally not be approved. The policy does not preclude FDHs from working in Hong Kong again after returning to their place of origin, and has allowed sufficient flexibility to cater for exceptional circumstances."
Women's participation in the work of judiciary
     "Regarding the Committee's questions concerning women's participation in the work of judiciary, the delegation pointed out that Article 92 of the Basic Law provides that judges and others members of the judiciary of the HKSAR shall be chosen on the basis of their judicial and professional qualities and may be recruited from other common law jurisdictions. Gender is not a relevant consideration in judicial appointment."

     "The delegation stressed that the Government in conjunction with the EOC reviews the operation of the four anti-discrimination Ordinances on a regular basis and put forward legislative amendment proposals where necessary. The Government enacted the Discrimination Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2020 in June 2020 to take forward some of the EOC's recommendations with a view to enhancing protection against discrimination and harassment under the four anti-discrimination Ordinances, which includes prohibiting such acts as discrimination of breastfeeding women as well as harassment between participants in a common workplace."
     "The Government also separately introduced a legislative proposal to amend the Sex Discrimination Ordinance to provide protection against harassment of breastfeeding women. The Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 was passed by the Legislative Council in March 2021 to strengthen the legal protection for breastfeeding women, whereby discrimination and harassment on the ground of breastfeeding are prohibited with effect from June 2021."
     "The Government will examine the EOC's other recommendations taking into account the actual situation of Hong Kong while maintaining close communication with the EOC."
Work of the WoC
     "To respond to the Committee's questions concerning the powers of the WoC as well as the resources allocated to it, the delegation highlighted the fact that the WoC is tasked to advise the Government on issues related to women, with a view to promoting advancement of women. Under the support of the WoC, the Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy, thereby achieving continuous progress in the work in promoting the welfare and the rights and interests of women. To further support women in Hong Kong, the Chief Executive announced in the 2022 Policy Address the establishment of the Women Empowerment Fund (WEF) to subsidise community projects that support women in balancing job and family commitments, and unleashing their potential. The Financial Secretary further set aside $100 million in the Budget to strengthen support for women's development. Starting from 2023-24, the Government will use this additional provision to increase the annual funding for the WEF from $10 million to $20 million. The WEF will subsidise women's organisations and relevant non-governmental organisations for launching appropriate projects to support women."
       "Moreover, the WoC created the Gender Mainstreaming Checklist, which assisted Government departments to more systemically adopt gender mainstreaming by answering a series of straightforward questions. Since April 1, 2015, all Government bureaux and departments shall refer to the Checklist and apply gender mainstreaming when formulating major government policies and initiatives."
     The delegation emphasised to the Committee that women in Hong Kong will be free from all forms of discrimination, injustice or violence as always. Following the conclusion of the meeting in Geneva, the Committee will issue its Concluding Observations in end of May 2023.
Ends/Saturday, May 13, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:18
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