Hong Kong Opposition Party Urges UN to Intervene in Constitutional Debate

Hong Kong's opposition Democratic Party has asked the U.N. Human Rights Committee to intervene in the debate over whether China's national parliament should be allowed to interpret the territory's mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.

In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Democratic Party voices concerns about autonomy in the special administrative region of China.

Albert Ho is the party's vice-chairman and author of the report.

"Namely, we are concerned that the repeated interpretation of the Basic Law issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress would damage the independence of the judiciary and undermine the principle of "One country, two systems" and the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong," Ho said.

The promise of autonomy was made when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. The territory has its own courts, police force and political system and retains civil liberties not found elsewhere in China.

But the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress has made three rulings on how Hong Kong's constitution should be applied since the handover, the last time in 2005 at the request of the Hong Kong government.

Ho says the Hong Kong Democratic Party wants the U.N. Human Rights Committee to denounce the city's government for making the request and to ask it to abstain from further attempts at interpreting the Basic Law.

Ho says the Democrats are also concerned Beijing's interpretations of the constitution have delayed the implementation of universal suffrage in the territory. The Basic Law guarantees eventual full democracy, but does not say when that would come.

Since the handover, a committee of 800 mostly appointed members has selected Hong Kong's leader from a list of candidates pre-approved by Beijing. Only one-third of the legislature is directly elected.

The Democrats want the U.N. Human Rights Committee to urge Hong Kong's government to request a concrete timetable and road map for full democracy from Beijing, in the hope it can be achieved by 2012.

The Democratic Party submitted the report one week ahead of a hearing about Hong Kong's political and civil rights at the United Nations in New York next week. It will be the first such hearing since 1999.