Since 1996, HRIC has maintained a programme presence in Hong Kong, facilitating our work on mainland human rights issues. HRIC also has a small Hong Kong office, and we actively engage in outreach to diverse groups, including the diplomatic, NGO, and academic communities. As the central Chinese government tightens its control over Hong Kong affairs, we have expanded our programme work to specifically address heightened threats to rule of law, democracy, and human rights. We are expanding of our capacity-building work aimed at diverse stakeholders. Our current programme work in Hong Kong includes capacity building—through workshops for Hong Kong lawyers and law students—and consulting for key civil society actors on the use of UN human rights mechanisms and special procedures, and a conversation project—Hong Kong: Conversations Toward a Democratic Future—aimed at fostering greater understanding through dialogue among young people.
In 2016, HRIC launched the “Hong Kong: Conversations toward a Democratic Future” project aimed at promoting engagement, mutual understanding, and mutual respect among young local Hong Kongers and mainlanders living in Hong Kong.
In the series of conversations we have convened, the participants explored a range of topics, including identity and implications for community actions, Hong Kong’s core values, factors contributing to the clash between Hong Kongers and mainlanders, and visions of Hong Kong’s possible futures. The conversations were conducted in a combination of English, Cantonese, and putonghua, as preferred by the participants.
Beginning in late September 2014, the people of Hong Kong have captured the world’s attention and headlines with a mass civil obedience movement called Occupy Central with Love and Peace. Their demands are clear: genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 Chief Executive election, in accordance with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and China’s international obligations. On September 22, in response to an NPC Standing Committee decision, university students, organized by the Hong Kong Federation of Students and joined later by Scholarism, began a 5-day class boycott, followed by a sit-in. Occupy Central officially began on September 28.
Instead of suppressing the demonstrations, the use of tear gas by the police that day brought tens of thousands more to the street in the days that followed, with the number swelling to an estimated 180,000 at the peak.