Hong Kong human rights scores take a nosedive

Hong Kong’s human rights scores have further plummeted during the pandemic, showing “strikingly poor results” regarding the right to assemble and freedom of expression, according to an international index.

The New Zealand-based Human Rights Measurement Initiative tracks human rights performance based on a number of parameters, such as the right to quality of life, safety from the state and empowerment rights.

The survey interviewed local experts in 39 countries through an anonymous online questionnaire between February and March. Each parameter was rated a score out of 10 based on the responses.

Three aspects under the category “empowerment rights” – namely, the right to assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to participate in government – showed a significant drop in the past year. All three were in the “very bad” zone.

“Two particularly striking cases were Hong Kong and Malaysia, where the scores for all three rights dropped sharply from 2019 to 2020,” the report commented.

The score for the right to assembly and association fell from 4.1 points in 2019 to 2.7 points in 2020, while freedom of opinion and expression fell from 4.2 in 2019 to 2.8 last year.

The participation in government index also fell from 3.6 to 2.3. This resulted in an overall empowerment score of 2.2 out of 10 for the SAR, which was “worse than average.”

The index also listed Hong Kong as one of the places where respondents felt the pandemic was used as an excuse to restrict political participation, citing the postponement of last year’s Legislative Council election and the banning of citizens from attending public forums and local district council meetings.

Hong Kong also scored 7.1 out of 10 – an average score – for “safety from the state,” indicating a significant number of people are vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, even though it only saw a slight increase from 2.4 in 2019 to 2.6 in 2020. However, Hong Kong performed “better than average” in the right to education.

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