A welcome message from our new Executive Director, Piya Muqit

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Dear Friends,

This is my second week in my new role as Executive Director of Justice Centre, and indeed in Hong Kong, having left Europe in the thick of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Over the past few months, as I’ve prepared for the big move across the globe, I’ve also been closely following former colleagues and asylum experts commenting on the unfolding events; it has made me feel incredibly proud to see so many of my legal and non-profit fraternity marching in solidarity with the refugee community across capitals in Europe.

Click to read Piya’s opinion piece in the SCMP

Just this past Monday, key EU heads of state met in Brussels to carve out a strategy and propose a resolution to this crisis. While this is good to hear, it is my belief that each and every government around the world should help address the global refugee crisis – read my opinion piece, published in last Saturday’s SCMP on what role Asian powerhouses, in Hong Kong, should be taking to respond.

Now that I’m working on the other side of the world, I am keen to use my expertise in refugee law and human trafficking to help shape public debate, increase awareness, ensure meaningful access to justice and change law and policy for the causes we advocate for and the people we serve. Having worked in legal practice, legal education and in policy and advocacy for both local and international organisations, I hope that my experience can contribute positively to the fantastic work that is already taking place.

Justice Centre’s long-term vision is for Hong Kong to become a just and inclusive society where people from all countries of origin enjoy dignity, human rights and meaningful access to justice. I intend to work fearlessly with my colleagues to protect the rights of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable forced migrants and position us as a key player in the refugee and human trafficking fields locally and regionally. Most importantly, I am looking forward to getting to know you, members of our amazing supporter community without whom our work would not be possible, over the course of my leadership.

Warm regards,


Piya Muqit_Justice CentrePiya is a qualified Barrister in England and Wales and an Advocate in Scotland, and has been working for the past fifteen years in the field of human rights, child rights and refugee law and policy. Piya most recently worked at UNICEF UK as head of policy and advocacy, and Freedom from Torture as their senior legal advisor.

Call for entries: Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015

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Justice Centre Hong Kong is pleased to announce the call for entries for our annual Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015. Now in its third year, the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize is a platform for Hong Kong-based artists to explore human rights through the visual arts and to raise awareness of these issues amongst new audiences.

HKHRAP2015_LogoThe winner of the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize this year will be announced and shortlisted artworks will be sold at a charity auction in December 2015. The winner will also be awarded HK$ 30,000 to support their work.

Shortlisted artists are respectfully requested to donate their artwork to Justice Centre Hong Kong so all funds raised from the auction will go towards our work to protect the rights of refugees and survivors of human trafficking.

Entries will be judged by an eminent panel of prominent art experts and human rights specialists.

To view the online gallery of artworks shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2014, please click here.

To find out how to enter this year’s Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, please click here.


Hong Kong Government’s Tier 2 track record in 2015 US TIP Report confirms its abysmal progress to address human trafficking concerns

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In response to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released yesterday, Justice Centre Hong Kong, a Hong Kong-based human rights organisation, regrets that for the seventh consecutive year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has once again been ranked at Tier 2 for failing to comply with the minimum standards to combat human trafficking.

In its narrative of Hong Kong, this year’s TIP report states that in the past year “although officials identified 26 potential victims [of human trafficking], they did not refer them to or provide them with protective service, unlike in 2013.” The report goes on to note that in regards to prosecution, the government actually “decreased” its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and  only made “modest” efforts to prevent trafficking.

The TIP Report, released on an annual basis, examines the efforts made by governments around the world to combat human trafficking within their borders through a tier-ranking system of 1, 2, 2-Watch List and 3. Tier 1 is the highest ranking, meaning that states in this category comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, acknowledge and make proactive efforts to address the problem. States in Tier 3, the worst possible placement, neither fully comply with the minimum standards nor are making significant efforts to do so.

The Hong Kong Government has frequently gone on the record to wholly deny human trafficking, for example stating, in response to the TIP Report this year, that it “disagree[d] that Hong Kong is a destination and transit and source territory for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.”

In reaction to the report and HKSAR’s continued ranking at Tier 2, Victoria Wisniewski Otero, Acting Director of External Relations of Justice Centre Hong Kong, said:

“It is high time that the Hong Kong Government did more to address human trafficking concerns and graduate out of the Tier 2 ranking, where it has languished since 2009. Progress has been abysmal considering the many high-profile cases of abuse, particularly among foreign domestic workers, that have come to the public eye in the past couple of years, notably that of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih last year.

It is clear that Hong Kong has the resources to do more but lacks the political will. While we acknowledge authorities’ recent efforts, such as public awareness campaigns and law enforcement training, if the starting point for the Hong Kong Government to discussing these issues is consistently one of denial, then it is merely paying lip service to combating human trafficking and forced labour and offering survivors more protection and ensuring their rights are respected.”

 For years, Justice Centre Hong Kong, other civil society organisations and human rights experts at home and abroad have been calling for the Hong Kong Government to adopt comprehensive legislation to address human trafficking in all its forms; to develop more targeted policy measures, such as a National Plan of Action, and for the UN Trafficking or “Palermo” Protocol to be extended to the HKSAR territory.

In order to capture a reliable snapshot of what is happening on the ground, Justice Centre Hong Kong has embarked on a ground-breaking three-part research project to examine the prevalence and patterns of human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation among three vulnerable migrant groups who are often at risk of abuse: foreign domestic workers, migrant sex workers and people seeking asylum in Hong Kong. The first study, surveying over 1,000 foreign domestic workers from eight countries of origin, will be published later this year, and the overall project will be completed in two years.


A copy of the 2015 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report can be found here.

The Hong Kong Government’s press release in response to TIP report can be found here.

To learn more about Justice Centre’s research project to examine the prevalence and patterns of human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation among foreign domestic workers, sex workers and people seeking asylum in Hong Kong, click here.

Aleta Miller moves on from Justice Centre Hong Kong

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Aleta MillerAfter three years at the helm of Justice Centre Hong Kong, Aleta Miller is moving on from the post of Executive Director.

Aleta joined Justice Centre after a career in the UN and steered the organisation through a significant relaunch and rebrand in 2014 that took it from Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre to Justice Centre.

Chair of the Justice Centre Board of Directors, Farzana Aslam, said:

“Aleta has been a dedicated, bold and strategic leader for our organisation. Under her stewardship, Justice Centre has become the dynamic, innovative human rights organisation it is today. She leaves us in a strong position to achieve our ambitious mandate to protect the rights of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable forced migrants through both direct services for refugees and protection claimants, and advocacy programmes on both protection and human trafficking issues. She will be sorely missed.”

Aleta Miller said:

“I am deeply proud to have been part of creating Justice Centre, and incredibly grateful to all our friends, staff, volunteers, supporters, and donors for building this organisation with us. I leave with a heavy heart, letting go of something which I believe so strongly in, something which I’ve been part of building, something which I still hold a vision for, of working with people I care about.

It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve had the privilege to walk alongside many refugees and asylum seekers, to hear their wonderful stories, and horrifying stories, of survival, of hope, of overcoming the impossible to reach safety. These will stay with me forever and inspire me in my future path.”

The recruitment for a new Executive Director at Justice Centre is now open. Visit here for more details.

Exploitation of Hong Kong’s domestic workers dominates shortlist for Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize.

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A domestic worker who moonlights as a photographer and fifteen other artists from seven countries have been shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2014.

Preview the online gallery here.

The Prize aims to harness the power of the visual arts to promote awareness, provoke dialogue, inspire action and ultimately, bring about change in the area of human rights.

This year, artists were invited to submit works on the theme of modern slavery and human trafficking. Over 40 entries from Hong-based artists originating from countries as diverse as the Philippines, UK, Australia, USA, Hong Kong, South Africa and India were shortlisted to sixteen pieces by an eminent panel of prominent art experts and human rights specialists, including: Umbrella Movement artist and activist Kacey Wong; Claire Hsu, founder and director of Asia Art Archive; and Judge Kevin Zervos, a judge of the High Court in Hong Kong.

The shortlisted pieces, which include painting, photography, video, digital and mixed media works, will be exhibited and the winners announced on the night of Wednesday December 10, International Human Rights Day, at an exhibition and auction at Sundaram Tagore Gallery on Hollywood Road. The overall winner will be awarded HK$ 30, 000. All artists have generously donated their works to Justice Centre Hong Kong and all funds raised on the night will go to support our work to protect the rights of refugees and survivors of modern slavery.

Xyza Cruz Bacaniis a 27-year old domestic worker in Hong Kong who moonlights as a documentary photographer. Her piece Burn documents an anonymised domestic worker who received third degree burns to her back when she was scalded by hot soup left on a shoe rack by her employer.

Bacani says of the work:

“This case is about Maria, a domestic worker who got third degree burns on her back and arms from hot boiling soup that her employer put on the shoe rack. Her employer did not give her proper medical treatment, made her work in pain and kicked her out of her job even with her sufferings. A modern slave in a first world city fighting for her rights hoping to get the justice she deserves someday,”

Being a domestic worker herself, Bacani says she can relate to the exploitation that is happening in Hong Kong and is currently doing a long term project on domestic helper abuse.

The theme of domestic work in Hong Kong runs through a number of the pieces including: Helping Hands (Rob Godden); Can you see me yet? (Katie Vajda) and Human Exports (Stefan Irvine). Other pieces explore issues such as the global sex trade, the fashion industry, cocoa production and Japanese ‘Comfort Women’.

All sixteen shortlisted works, with information about the artists and the pieces, can be previewed here

You can pre-bid online at this link from one week before the event, Wednesday December 3.

Aleta Miller, Executive Director of Justice Centre Hong Kong, said:

“The exploitation and abuse of domestic workers has hit the headlines in Hong Kong over this past year with the much-publicised cases of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and Kartika Puspitasari. It is not surprising that this issue has been reflected in a number of the pieces shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, which invited works on the theme of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Modern slavery and human trafficking is on our doorstep: as an important regional hub and both a destination and transit territory for human trafficking, Hong Kong is currently failing to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Through the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, we want to use art to raise this issue amongst the Hong Kong public, inspire action and ultimately, bring about change in the area of human trafficking and exploitation.”

The full shortlist in alphabetical order is as follows:

Xyza Bacani, BURN           

Justo Cascante III, Norwegian Wood

Tiff Chan and Shawn Griffin, Bless the souls who made our clothes

Ringo Cheung, Standing in the Pink

Siddharth Choudhary, My Family

Rob Godden, Helping Hands

Stefan Irvine, Human Exports

KyoKaruna, Embodying the Doll and the Worker

Ellen Leung, 78

Parry Chin Tang Ling, Best Before

Mike Sakas, peace, Untitled

Marc Standing, Seeker

Enders Wong Sum , A Piece of Meat

Katie Vajda, Can you see me yet?

Tyler Whitlock, Untitled

RiK Yu, A Somatic Dialogue


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