Corporates and Non-Profits: Working Together

Published on . Posted in Advocacy, Asylum seeker, Blog, Fundraising, Human Trafficking, Refugee

Posted by Melanie McLaren

When people hear about the work of Justice Centre they always ask, “What can I do to help?”. It’s a question that I asked myself. Consequently, last September marked a significant change for me; I took a sabbatical from a successful nine-year career in the financial sector to become Justice Centre’s Fundraising Manager.

I first came to know about Justice Centre through my company which had supported one of Justice Centre’s projects. I was particularly struck by the dual-pronged approach the organisation takes in providing frontline services as well as advocating for better legislation and policies and I found myself wondering how I could use my unique skills to help; I now focus particularly on raising awareness of Justice Centre more widely amongst the corporate sector in Hong Kong.


One of our corporate partners delivering a public speaking workshop for Voices for Protection

The move was definitely a significant change: no more free breakfasts, no easy access to state-of-the-art technology and facilities, no person to take over my administrative work – the perks many take for granted in the corporate sector. Yet, I found the shift from the corporate to the non-profit sector to be extremely smooth, largely due to the professionalism, patience and enthusiasm of everyone I encountered.

Something that struck me particularly in my first few weeks at Justice Centre was the sheer breadth of stakeholders in the refugee and anti-human trafficking space. It clearly demonstrates that when it comes to advocating for human rights, everyone can and should play a role. My days have involved meeting people from a wide range of organisations and backgrounds, from consulate diplomats in Hong Kong, to accountants working on a financial solution to human trafficking issues, to talented local artists who have created work to raise awareness of human rights in Hong Kong.

Like many of these people, before I came across Justice Centre, I had very little knowledge of the political and humanitarian situation facing refugees here, or even that there was a significant refugee population within Hong Kong. However, so far I have seen that once people come to appreciate the current position refugees and victims of human trafficking face in Hong Kong, they have been extremely enthusiastic to get involved, whether through a formal corporate partnership, individual volunteering, engaging in fundraising activities or even simply attending our events.

Justice Centre is extremely fortunate to have wonderful support from a core group of partners who assist us in our work through our pro-bono partnership programme. With training and mentorship from our team of seasoned human rights lawyers, these partners generously provide their time and legal expertise, as well as other resources, and gain rewarding, hands-on experience assisting our beneficiaries.

Further to the legal work, our partners have engaged in a range of other activities with us, from hosting capacity-building workshops for refugees to build their skills through Voices for Protection, to company-wide fundraising drives such as auctions or bake sales, to individual fundraising activities. Justice Centre and our NGO partner Free to Run organise refugee hiking and running groups, and a group of volunteers from one of our corporate partners trained weekly with some of our refugee beneficiaries ahead of participating in a 10 kilometre race together in November 2015 to raise funds for both organisations.

It has been wonderful to see how involved and passionate the individuals within these firms are to contribute in any way they can, and we look forward to building on our existing platform and network with other businesses and people from the corporate sector.

Moving to the non-profit sector has shown me that advocating for forced migrants’ rights in Hong Kong is a responsibility we all share, and one that requires collaboration across sectors. If you or your company are interested in partnering with us, fundraising for us or supporting our programmes or activities, I urge you to get in touch to explore the possibilities.

We are currently recruiting for a part-time volunteer Development Associate with a background in PR/fundraising/business development to join our Fundraising and Development team. Find out more on our website


Work PhotoMelanie is the Fundraising Manager at Justice Centre.


Reviewing Hong Kong’s Human Trafficking Case

Published on . Posted in Asylum seeker, Blog, Court Case, Human Trafficking, Refugee, Slavery

Posted by Adam Severson

If Chief Executive Leung’s recent remark that HKSAR could “quit” the Convention against Torture was meant as a joke, he isn’t getting many laughs. Least of all because his timing is off – just over a month ago the Committee against Torture (CAT) released its concluding observations from its fifth periodic review of the HKSAR territory. CAT raised concerns that include: the use of excessive force by police, a “distinctly high threshold for granting protection” under the Unified Screening Mechanism, and the absence of a legislative framework for combatting human trafficking and forced labour. None of which is the least bit amusing. Call me humourless.

CAT’s concerns about human trafficking and forced labour in the HKSAR territory are of particular relevance this week as the Hong Kong High Court considers a landmark human trafficking case. The question before the court is whether the Hong Kong Government has an obligation to create laws to protect people from human trafficking, including for the purpose of forced labour. I observed the proceedings on Wednesday.

The victim, ZN (whose identity has been protected), came to Hong Kong in 2007 on a domestic worker visa. But he claims that the life he found in Hong Kong was not as promised. ZN alleges that his employer was verbally and physically abusive towards him, made ZN work long hours, withheld his wages, and confiscated ZN’s passport so he could not leave. He claims this went on for nearly four years, and that he sought assistance from the Hong Kong Police, the Immigration Department and the Labour Department, but that nothing was done.

ZN argues that the Hong Kong Government failed to protect his right to freedom from servitude and forced labour pursuant to Article 4 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (HKBORO). He claims that the Hong Kong Government failed, in part, because its domestic legal framework does not prohibit human trafficking, including for the purpose of forced labour. There is much anticipation around this landmark judicial review, as it may determine whether the government has an obligation to create such a framework.

We agree human trafficking is an egregious violation of fundamental freedoms. So this case should be simple, right? Unfortunately it isn’t. The issue is that Article 4 does not explicitly mention human trafficking; rather it prohibits slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Check out our joint 2014 report with Liberty Asia, How Many More Years A Slave? to better understand these complex terms.

ZN’s lawyers argue that the High Court should follow the example of the European Court of Human Rights. In Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, the court interpreted Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights – a provision very similar to HKBORO Article 4 – to include a prohibition on human trafficking. The Hong Kong Government disagrees, arguing that the High Court should read Article 4 as written – without any mention of human trafficking. And it buttresses its argument by pointing out that, unlike most European states, the HKSAR territory is not bound by the UN Trafficking (“Palermo”) Protocol, which creates robust protections for human trafficking in all of its forms.

It is tough to discern which direction the High Court is leaning, but hopes are high that the court will find that the Hong Kong Government has an obligation under HKBORO Article 4 to create a legal framework to combat human trafficking.

In the meantime, I hope Chief Executive Leung lays off the careless comments and instead focuses on implementing the Committee against Torture’s recommendations.

20151214_124030Adam is the Senior Legal Advisor at Justice Centre Hong Kong

Will we move forward in 2016?

Published on . Posted in Advocacy, Asylum seeker, Blog, Illegal immigrant, LEGCO, Refugee, USM

Posted by Raven Lam

On my first day at Justice Centre I remember I was asked what I thought about refugees. After a slight hesitation, I answered, “The media says some are bogus refugees who come to Hong Kong intentionally for economic benefits”. However, the more I researched refugee issues as part of my work at Justice Centre, the more I found out how biased the Hong Kong mainstream media can be in its coverage. “Bogus” (literally meaning “false, not real or not legal”) and “illegal immigrants”, are the words frequently being used to describe refugees who are seeking asylum in Hong Kong. I worry that the effect of labelling refugees as “illegal immigrants” puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the policy-making process; mainly because the other side of the story is largely left untold.

The UN Committee against Torture, in their recent concluding observations with recommendations to the Hong Kong Government, expressed concern for the situation faced by refugees here, particularly about the fact that a person has to overstay their visa and become ‘officially “illegal”’ in order to apply for protection. The Committee also continues to urge the Hong Kong Government to seek extension of the Refugee Convention to Hong Kong to offer refugees international standards of protection.

Most refugees do not have a choice of where to go when fleeing persecution in their home country. What the public does not know is that many come to Hong Kong on a (legal) visitor’s visa, which ensures them immediate safety, with the intention of applying for asylum once they are here. However, they are often shocked to find out later that Hong Kong is not bound to the Refugee Convention.

Additionally, the government-funded humanitarian assistance package is not sufficient to support the livelihood of the refugees, given that they are prohibited from working in Hong Kong, where the cost of living is extremely high. Some of them who cannot afford the rent even live in slums in New Territories where the sanitary conditions are appalling. Regarding social inclusion, refugees may be further marginalised due to their immigration status, ethnicity and language barriers. Many find it difficult to publicly advocate for their own rights, fearing that revealing their identities might endanger their (or their family’s) safety or even affect their protection claim in Hong Kong. In a nutshell, the experience of refugees in Hong Kong sounds inconceivably dehumanising, yet we cannot deny its existence.

What can we, young people particularly, do to help refugees? Perhaps the first step to take is to change our mindset by knowing more. For instance, this UNHCR video shows the lives of refugees from Central African Republic, a country which many of Justice Centre’s individual assistance recipients come from. Many people don’t know very much about the events happening in this country, which refugees are fleeing from. Before volunteering with Justice Centre, to put it bluntly, I had a biased understanding towards refugees; at one time I thought these people were not worth the resources that the government had been spending. But my mindset has changed considerably in the three months I’ve volunteered here, from indifference to sympathy, after learning more about the hardships many refugees overcome to reach safety from their home country.

Young people can also help by using their knowledge to positively contribute to the dialogue; it is heartbreaking to see insulting comments targeting refugees on social media where it is clear that the netizens usually have no idea of the other side of the stories. We can also reach out to policymakers to advocate for refugees in Hong Kong. Our understanding of these issues makes a difference, as public opinion can be an influential factor that policymakers consider when debating policies on refugee rights. Young people are essential to bringing about change, but all of us need to take a first step to learn about refugees and understand the critical situation that they are facing, both in their home countries and in Hong Kong.

The government has been promoting Hong Kong as Asia’s World City, an international melting pot where vibrant people, cultures and ideologies are tolerated and respected. However, such a notion is not reflected in the government policy on the rights of refugees. It is 2016: is the government moving forward to a more tolerant and fair protection system or stepping backward to an unwelcoming and ambivalent one? The answer is held in your hands.


Raven is a final year International Relations major at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). She is an intern at Justice Centre through HKU’s Social Science Social Innovation Internship programme.


A Look Back at 2015

Published on . Posted in Blog

Dear Friends,

Last week was a pretty exciting week for our team, fresh from our first Human Rights Week 2015, which came to a close with the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015 Awards Ceremony and Charity Auction at the Fringe Club. In case you haven’t already heard, the winners of the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015 are here.

Thank you to YOU, our supporters, who engaged in Human Rights Week to make it a massive success! It has been wonderful to promote awareness, dialogue and action on human rights around the important occasion of International Human Rights Day.

Ending 2015 with such a thrilling event and with 2016 right around the corner, our team has decided to reflect on the many highlights from this past year, below. All of these milestones would not be possible without your ongoing support.

With the festive season underway, please consider making a life-changing donation to support our work. Or, ask your friends and family to make a donation to Justice Centre in lieu of giving Christmas presents.

Your support is vital in enabling us to provide essential legal and psychological services for refugees and survivors of torture, and to advocate for the rights of forced migrants. Please click here to make a donation today and find out how your donation will make a difference.

And why not give your time? Justice Centre is currently recruiting for a number of different positions, including a Communications Manager, Communications Intern and interpreters. Check this space for future opportunities in 2016 and to learn more about our current openings!

With that, here’s wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season!  We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

Best wishes,

Piya and the Justice Centre team

A Look Back at 2015

Information to promote access to justice: Justice Centre launched a new information session – ‘USM 3: Appeals and Judicial Reviews’ – to inform protection claimants on the options available to them if their USM claim has been unsuccessful. In a system with a 99.7% rejection rate, this information is crucial.

Seeing the impact of our individual assistance: Justice Centre saw one of the beneficiaries of our individual legal and psychosocial support services  recognised under the Unified Screening Mechanism – one of only a handful of successful claims thus far in this new system. Justice Centre continues to push for more transparency through Access to Information Requests.

Shadow report to the UN Committee against Torture (CAT): Justice Centre submitted a shadow report to CAT, outlining our concerns about Hong Kong’s commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention against Torture. We also helped claimants file their own submission, resulting in strong and detailed recommendations by CAT to the HKSAR Government in November.

Hungry for Change instrumental in leading to food policy reform: We did a final push on our Hungry for Change petition, garnering over 1300 signatures that we provided to the Security Bureau, along with letters from refugees and our research on food assistance schemes. This led to a positive change to a food voucher scheme, with restrictions on certain food items also eventually lifted in December.

Ground-breaking research on human trafficking and forced labour: Justice Centre conducted, in partnership with a market research company, a first-of-its-kind large-scale survey with over 1,000 migrant domestic workers from 8 countries of origin to estimate the scale of forced labour, human trafficking and exploitation. The results will be published in a report that will be released early in 2016.

I am more than a refugee (media project) for Labour Day: On International Labour Day on May 1, graduates from our Voices for Protection advocacy traineeship for refugees came together to discuss their careers, dreams and ambitions, given that they have no right to work in Hong Kong. Since we cannot take their photographs, for security reasons, we recorded their voices instead. Listen to ‘I am more than a refugee’.

Justice Centre adds a Senior Legal Advisor to team: We welcomed Adam Severson who took up the new role of Senior Legal Advisor to oversee our Protection Claimant Services team, ensuring that our legal work is of top quality.

World Refugee Day and #SharedPasts:
In honour of ‪World Refugee Day on June 20, we celebrated the accomplishments and stories of ‪refugees, both past and present, at an event at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, where we also officially launched our #SharedPasts project, in collaboration with Xyza Cruz Bacani. Watch the #SharedPasts video.

Advocacy around Hong Kong’s ranking in US TIP Report: Once again, Hong Kong was disappointingly ranked at Tier 2 in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in July this year for failing to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. Justice Centre issued a media statement, and our Advocacy and Campaigns Manager spoke to RTHK about the report.

New Executive Director is appointed to lead Justice Centre: Piya 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.

Justice Centre receives funding to launch Voices for Protection WOMEN: Thanks to the generosity of HER Fund, Voices for Protection WOMEN kicked off with a diverse and dynamic group of women. So far, the group have been learning about famous women leaders, about their own roles in society and how they can be leaders as well. Watch out for more updates on their activities!

Justice Centre Ambassadors Network kicks off: We launched the Justice Centre Ambassadors Network to offer our supporters the opportunity to get more involved in our work on an ad hoc basis. Our first group of Ambassadors have been busy supporting our activities, attending events and visiting schools. To receive an update when we open our next round of recruitment, please email Zamira at

Justice Centre welcomes its second Justice Centre Fellow: Our second fellow, Lynette Nam joined our team. The fellowship was created to develop public interest law capacity in Hong Kong, and the role contributes to the provision of Justice Centre’s protection claimant services and the operation of our pro bono partner programme.

Justice Centre is a charity beneficiary of grants and fundraising activities: We were honoured to be selected as a charity beneficiary for Operation Santa Claus, organised by South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong. Check out our interviews with SCMP and RTHK to learn more. We also received a grant from UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT) to provide survivors of torture with legal and psychological support. Lastly, students from schools around Hong Kong fundraised for Justice Centre’s human trafficking research during the 24 Hour Race.

Refugees engage in “Run for Justice” with Free to Run: 
The ‘Run for Justice’ team conquered their 10k and 5k races on November 29. The team consisted of refugee runners, as well as Justice Centre, Free to Run and Macquarie staff and volunteers. Many had never even run a race before! The funds raised have gone towards our legal and psychological work, as well as towards the work of Free to Run to help them organise hiking groups for female refugees in Hong Kong. Thank you to Macquarie for their support and to those of you who sponsored the team!
Justice Centre introduces Human Rights Week in addition to Arts Prize:  In addition to the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize exhibition, we held our first Human Rights Week, hosting talks and activities to generate awareness and dialogue around human rights!

We have limited edition prints of three of the shortlisted pieces, signed by the artists and priced at HK$2000 each: P H Yang’s What Next for Hong Kong; Chi Loy Man’s My Face Hit Your Fist; and Rebecca Benians’ Why?

We also have a 2016 calendar for sale featuring artworks shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, priced at HK$200. Email to place an order for limited edition prints and calendars by January 4, 2016

Kacey Wong and Katie Vajda: Art and Human Rights

Published on . Posted in Advocacy, Blog, Fundraising, Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize

Posted by Zamira Monteiro

Kacey Wong

Kacey Wong

Only one week to go till the launch of Human Rights Week 2015! Are you as excited as we are?

As part of the line-up, we’re very honoured to have visual artists Kacey Wong and Katie Vajda delivering a special talk on the use of art as a tool to raise awareness of human rights issues. They will speak about some of their projects and the issues they are passionate about, particularly reflecting on the value of protest art and tips for effective art advocacy for emerging artists.

This talk will be of interest to emerging artists, art students and enthusiasts, and anyone interested in activism!

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Into Wonderland by Katie Vajda. The donated artwork will be auctioned on December 10.

Kacey is an educator and an active contemporary visual artist in Hong Kong. A former judge of the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, Kacey’s experimental art project investigates the poetics of space between men and their living environment. He was the winner of the Best Artist Award in 2010, Rising Artist Award and Outstanding Arts Education Award given by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in 2003. Kacey is well known for using his art as social activism and for his public engagement art projects in the Occupied Zone during the Umbrella Movement. As an art activist, his recent political artworks explore the possibility between art and public demonstration, linking art and political resistance into one.

Katie is a photographic artist living and practising in Hong Kong. Her work is beautifully executed yet challenging, engaging with cultural theory and philosophy. Katie’s work has appeared regularly in Hong Kong media and been exhibited both locally and internationally, most recently at Fine Art Asia, The Arts Centre HK and Art Miami 2015. Katie was also the winner of the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize in 2014, with her series ‘Can you see me yet?’.

Black Cop Candle by Kacey Wong

Black Cop Candle by Kacey Wong. The donated artwork will be auctioned on December 10.

Both Kacey and Katie have also generously donated artworks that will be auctioned at our invite-only awards ceremony and charity auction on the evening of December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.


Artist talk: Art and Human Rights by visual artist and activist, Kacey Wong (in English)

Date: Wednesday, December 9, 7-8pm

Venue: The Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central.

Admission: Free

RSVP by emailing or calling 3109 7359.

Check out the full line up of events for Human Rights Week 2015 at

You can now preview the gallery of shortlisted artworks for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize and pre-bid online at  

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