The United Nations Human Rights Committee has questioned the Macao government about excluding pro-democracy candidates from the 2021 legislative elections, and expressed “serious concerns” regarding possible violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
According to the government broadcaster TDM, during Macao’s three meetings with the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), the committee also expressed concerns about the “very severe measures” of confinement imposed in Macao, after the recent outbreak of Covid-19.
In the course of a two-hour videoconference, the United Nations HRC questioned the Macao delegation, led by the Secretary for Administration and Justice, André Cheong, about the implementation of the ICCPR.
Shuichi Furuya, for the UN, said the committee wanted to know if the measures adopted by the Macao government, following the most recent outbreak of Covid-19, which led to five deaths and infected more than 1,600 people, “are compatible with the rights guaranteed by the Basic Law and by the ICCPR.”
“Whether the effective application of these restrictive measures is compatible with the pact must be decided according to their necessity and proportionality, and not infringe the rights guaranteed by the agreement,” he said.
In response, Cheong argued that “in general, the measures are not affecting people’s lives” and that having followed this programme outlined by the government, daily infections “have fallen” from a peak of 100 per day to 20 or 30”.
“Adopting these measures will, in fact, cause inconvenience to the lives of the population and limit their basic rights, but we think that the most fundamental right is the right to life,” noted Cheong.
Vasilka Sancin, a member of the UN committee, also conveyed to the Macao delegation that “serious concerns have been expressed” that the exclusion of candidates for the Legislative Assembly constitutes “a flagrant violation” of the rights enshrined in the Covenant.
In his reply, Liu Dexue, director of Macao´s Legal Affairs Bureau, pointed out that according to the Basic Law all permanent residents can stand for legislative elections. But that right “is not absolute”.
He added that the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) Electoral Commission has the right to carry out checks on candidates, who may be considered ineligible if they have not upheld the Basic Law or if they are not considered loyal to the MSAR.
Cheong, assured the UN committee that Macao will continue to be “committed to promoting various measures in order to protect human rights” as well as “making every effort to implement the provisions” of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law of Macao”.
Between 13 and 15 July, the United Nations HRC analysed the progress of the territory in the context of the publication of the 2nd Report on the implementation of the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with representatives of the MSAR government.
According to the Office of the Secretary for Administration and Justice, “The Macao government is convinced that the present assessment will help the Committee to better understand the progress made in the field of human rights since the return of Macao to the Motherland”.
To watch the full 135th Session of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), click on the video* below:
*Due to technical problems at the beginning of this meeting, the first 10 to 15 minutes are missing.