There's a sickness in our institutions!
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Sure, the covid pandemic is serious enough for the world to deal with right now, but there is another nasty illness that pervades democracies the world-over. Call it inertia, call it inaction. Call it systemic, but we have to do something about it!
We are witnessing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the USA, with protests on the street, and more people speaking out about injustice than ever before so that change looks more likely than unlikely. When attitudes change, government will change. An end to systemic discrimination means the people entrusted with running the public institutions will serve ALL people fairly and with respect, care and consideration.
In HK our government is an illegitimate one, and some of the institutions that are meant to serve us do not function as well as they ought to. Trust in the government is absent and has been for some time.
Very serious case in point:
In documents publicised this week by HK Free Press it was revealed that a refugee from Egypt seeking asylum in HK was treated very badly here. A redacted document provided by the Justice Centre that assists refugees applying for asylum in HK showed how the Torture Claims Appeal Board (TCAB) operates in an arcane manner, totally out of touch with contemporary reality and thinking.
The TCAB dismissed a petition for asylum presented by an Egyptian man in 2018. Mohamed (a pseudonym), who is in his late 30s, declared that he converted from Islam to Christianity and is a homosexual. He tried to seek protection in HK as he feared he would he harmed upon returning to his home country.
The Justice Centre claims that adjudicators on the TCAB which hears and determines appeals against non-refoulement claims, often display “hostility and cynicism” towards claimants. In this case they displayed blatant ineptitude in clinging to worn-out homophobic stereotypes, and no sympathy for a victim of rape. In his decision, the TCAB adjudicator said the claimant failed to provide “medical evidence” that indicated his homosexuality.
What? Is there some kind of blood test or DNA test for homosexuality that the rest of the world does not know about??
The TCAB adjudicator also said Mohamed, who claimed he was raped by a male chef when he was in Sudan in 2015, would – on balance – have “willingly consented” to the rape if he was a homosexual.
“The medical report… only states a diagnosis of ‘chronic depression,’ but no diagnosis nor even a mention of homosexuality,” the adjudicator wrote. “He does not say that because he was homosexual he had found the act of the Chef enjoyable.”
How would the adjudicator feel about something being rammed forcefully up his or her anus? This is an outrage! I won't repeat the absurd bigoted comments of the adjudicator here, but it seems that genuine homosexual applicants seeking protection and hoping for asylum are expected to make an appearance before the TCAB dressed up in 'drag' or as a transvestite. It's also nonsense to believe that homosexual men only conform to a feminine stereotype, or walk in a way peculiar to women.
It's bad enough for refugees that they are forced out of their own country by circumstance, only to find that HK makes them wait years and years in limbo until their case for asylum is heard and they can move on to a country willing to resettle them.
Currently HK DOES NOT ACCEPT REFUGEES from any place, other than from mainland China. Asylum seekers like Mohamed are merely trying to have their plight recognised so their name can be added to a list kept somewhere, and they can eventually move on to an accommodating nation.
And all the while the refugees are in HK they are NOT allowed to work, and are dependent on a slim government handout and on charity. No wonder some refugees resort to desperate or illegal measures just to survive their limbo life in HK! With HK government coffers being so loaded it begs the question as to why it acts in such a miserly way towards people who have already suffered enough.
What we must note about the case of Mohamed is the sickening response of the government civil servants handling his case. The World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990, whilst the American Psychiatric Association removed the “diagnosis” from its handbook in 1973.
According to LegCo documents, the HK Judiciary Administration conducted a consultation with the HK Bar Association and the Law Society of HK between June and September last year. It was identified then that changes in the handling of asylum cases were necessary. The lack of transparency in immigration and TCAB non-refoulement petition decisions, and the dubious quality of those decisions made, have only added to the high volume of court cases with an increasing number of appeals being lodged. This, at a time when courts are already overloaded with a backlog of other cases stemming from civil unrest in society.
Laws, regulations and procedures that govern the lives of LGBTQI people in HK are long overdue an overhaul. “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” reads Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was proclaimed and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and is widely recognised by most countries. Despite its UN obligations HK fails this litmus test! Why has HK chosen not to ratify this convention?
I have not even started to address the plight of the children of those seeking asylum. HK has one of the lowest rates of acceptance for asylum seekers in the developed world - just 5% at last count.
Did you know that there was a race discrimination case in HK courts concerning an 11year old child and the HK police back in 2011 (Singh v Secretary for Justice)? Things have hardly changed in 11 years! In Hong Kong the fox is in-charge of the chickens and proper justice is not being served.
Last week we learnt of yet another harrowing case of ill-treatment at the hands of those in authority in HK. The case of Le Van Muoi, is that of a homeless man, a Vietnamese who was assaulted by police officers in Sham Shui Po after being arrested on a drugs possession charge. On 9 October Muoi was reportedly found dead in his prison cell, yet all the circumstances point to a more sinister turn of events, with Correctional Service Department (CSD) staff changing their story, and people with an interest in the case being subject to abnormal delays and troubling interviews with police.
Most significantly, the pathologist in charge of the autopsy has said that Muoi did not commit suicide. Also significant is that, according to one social media commentator on Reddit, the news story made it on to the pages of Apple Daily in Cantonese, but not much further.
Was there a deliberate news blackout of this scandalous story, some kind of conspiracy? Why is it that only opposition lawmakers and a local pastor are calling for greater transparency and accountability in the management of HK’s prisons after the death of Le Van Muoi? It seems that amongst pro-Beijing lawmakers in HK the life of a Vietnamese street sleeper is worthless!
The HK government continues with its failure to recognise that there is anything systemic about the police violence that protesters in the city have witnessed, and that we have all seen spread virally on global media. Similarly the government legislators don't acknowledge the systemic nature of the failure of their own governance, their violence and aggression turned against the people of HK.
The problem is we have a Chief Executive (CE) heading the government who is herself part of HK's current political problem. Her belief that she is "immune from criticism" shows how deluded she is, that she could even be immune from making mistakes!
The CE doesn't listen, and refuses to listen.
The sickness in HK institutions starts at the very top!
This week we witnessed the CE Carrie Lam again spewing forth pronouncements on her role and the CCP imposition of its National Security Law in HK. While for months many have considered her no more than a puppet who fulfils the wishes of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), others clearly now consider her a tyrant and traitor to the people of the SAR. Mrs Lam has the lowest popularity rating ever of any HK CE!
HK television commentator, Michael Chugani, has gone as far as suggesting that the CE has become a dictator (22 October 2020). Reports are being heard that even some pro-Beijing legislators in HK now hold Mrs Lam in low, low regard.
Speaking with numerous pro-establishment newspapers including Commercial Daily, Hong Kong Economic Times and Beijing-owned Wen Wei Po, the CE discussed HK's land supply issues and plans to foster closer links with Shenzhen across the border in mainland China. The CE stated that in recent years everything she does is for the good of HK, or for the good of the country [China]. Mrs Lam shrugs off criticisms levelled at her, saying she has a “sense of duty” that prompted her to serve the public for four decades.
Well, many would contest her definition of "good" amidst the ongoing pandemic and her refusal to completely shut HK border entry points, when we have witnessed endless civil unrest and police brutality, union strikes, worsening economic statistics, and absolute failure to deliver on the promises captured in the Joint Declaration signed at the handover from British rule in 1997.
It's no surprise that businesses, families and individuals are leaving the city that used to offer them hope.
Moreover, HK's relations with other nations continue to deterioriate, and other than empty threats issued by Beijing's diplomats, absolutely nothing of substance has been done to address the will of HK people, or the concerns of respected human rights organisations including the UN.
Although the systemic failure of HK governance may have started in the way legislators are elected here, it is being sustained by people in authority who know that things are wrong but do nothing about it. They play politics. They are noticeably silent. They take the side that offers the least resistance or discomfort. They bow down to threats. They are afraid to act or speak out when they ought to. They take the money and whatever other sweeteners they are offered; they don't resign and instead continue to prop up a rotten system. They turn a blind eye to whatever injustice and disservice that they are in part an accomplice to. They discriminate even against their own people! They deny HKers their rights, and their freedoms. Those politicians are corrupt.
While Carrie Lam refuses to see that she is herself part of the HK political problem, instability is never going to go away, no matter what she says to sugar-coat our reality or cast a new narrative in the SAR. Without stability, any prosperity for HK will be stunted.
The most powerful structure is "Pluralistic" People Power. The monolithic power structure of HK's Chinese feudal plutocracy has already crumbled and is now being propped up by the brutality of the communist HK government directly controlled by CCP. There is no prosperity in HK because there is no rule OF law - and there will be no prosperity in HK until the Joint Declaration is upheld.
Discrimination against LGBTQI people in HK, refugees or not, will continue because the system allows it - even fosters it!
Recognising what the problem is, is part of the solution.
HK deserves a better future. Are you part of HK's political problem or will you help fix it?
1. Mohamed successfully relocated to Montreal, Canada via private sponsorship of a Canadian refugees program, shortly after his asylum claim was dismissed in HK
2. Pope Francis calls for civil union law for same-sex couples, in shift from Vatican stance, 24 October 2020, Catholic World Report
3. Spat at, segregated, policed: Hong Kong's dark-skinned minorities say they've never felt accepted, CNN, 22 August 2020.