Last week, I accompanied my colleagues and several refugees to observe the Legislative Council’s (“LegCo”) Panel on Security meeting. The session was to discuss the Hong Kong Government’s comprehensive review of the strategy of handling non-refoulement claims, including the Unified Screening Mechanism (the government’s screening process for asylum claims, or the “USM”).
Refugees have recently made the headlines in Hong Kong’s local newspapers. I work as a caseworker in Justice Centre’s Protection Claimant Services team to help people navigate the Unified Screening Mechanism (or the USM, the government’s screening process for protection). This role has enabled me to see these recent reports by the government and media from the perspective of the people to whom it matters the most – the refugees.
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.
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.
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.