We participated in force at the HKU Rights Talk – organized by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law – with 20 members who were very satisfied with the outcome, which is what counts. Attendance was heavier than anticipated with delegations from HKRAC, ISS, Christian Action, Vine Church, Medecins Sans Frontieres and UNHCR, with Mr. Choosin Ngaotheppitak inevitably taking the hot seat. We believe our presentation took pride of place, further developing a message that broke in 29 January 2012, reaching a forum at Hong Kong University in two months. We had a chance to talk to UNHCR, explaining we represent hundreds of members who trust us to always take their best interest at heart. We still have much to say, but the Easter break is a good time to take stock of achievements and prepare for the next stage – one which must necessarily include HK Government. The panelists debated whether UNHCR is able to meet refugees’ legitimate expectations and whether it needs to rethink its role. It was unanimously agreed the Refugee Convention must be extended to Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. Mr. Choosin admitted, “… probably that may be a good idea if UNHCR is not around …” After the event, Cosmo clarified with him, “This is nothing personal. We appreciate UN polices tie both your hands. The problem is the government constantly raises UNHCR as an excuse to deflect responsibility. So UNHCR is the first domino that must fall in the sake of progress.” The reactions from the audience ranged from the concerned to the outraged at UNHCR’s long and awkward explanations – not an enviable job! There only seem to be two possibilities: either UNHCR’s detachment from reality is complete, or they have no idea what is going on in refugee lives. It’s not worth commenting on comments … so here is the full text – thank you.
Vine Church Tony: “Looking at moving things forward in Hong Kong, it would appear that the presence of UNHCR would be preventing this from happening. That it is a deterrent to that. What is the UNHCR’s legal agreement with Hong Kong Government? Would Hong Kong Government feel under pressure if UNHCR withdrew from this process in HK?”
UNHCR Choosin: “We have the agreement with Hong Kong to implement our mandate. But Hong Kong always emphasises that Hong Kong is not signatory to the Convention, but allow UNHCR to implement its mandate by assisting refugees … and looking for durable solutions for refugees. I don’t know whether … probably that may be a good idea if UNHCR is not around, maybe Hong Kong would take more responsibility. I would hope so. And maybe that would be a good idea to discuss about.”