|Purpose||Protecting the rights of Hong Kong's most vulnerable forced migrants|
|Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC)|
Launched in 2014, Justice Centre Hong Kong is an independent, non-profit human rights organisation that focuses on the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has long been a hub of migration and refuge due to wars in the region and Hong Kong’s historical role as a trading and transit entrepôt. There were estimated to be 14,000 refugees in the territory in 2017, and these refugees are in need of extensive legal assistance as the 0.8 substantiation rate is extremely low compared to rates of 25-62% per cent in other developed jurisdictions. Before early 2014 the organisation was known as the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC), which in 2007 had grown out of the Refugee Advice Unit from another local organisation working with refugees, Christian Action. And spun off by human rights lawyers Jennifer Stone and Raquel Amador, who were the first Directors. In 2012 Aleta Miller became Executive Director, helping HKRAC win the Clifford Chance Foundation Access to Justice Award in 2012, and relaunching the organisation as Justice Centre Hong Kong in 2014. From 2015 the Executive Director was Piya Muqit, who was previously head of policy and advocacy at UNICEF UK. In November 2020 Melanie McLaren was appointed Executive Director.
The organisation works with civil society partners to champion the rights of persons seeking protection in Hong Kong through research and advocacy work. In addition, it provides legal and psychosocial assistance to asylum seekers, as with the very low acceptance rate of legal aid applications in Hong Kong most asylum seekers are otherwise forced to represent themselves.
They also carry out evidence based policy work to try to influence and improve government policies towards their clients. Their 'Coming Clean" report in 2016 found more than 80 percent of the territory's 336,600 domestic workers are exploited, with one in six a victim of forced labour. Providing the first quantitative data on trafficking this gave Hong Kong a very low ranking on the Global Slavery Index, and pushing Hong Kong onto the Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report.
Founded in 2017 for the third cycle of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, the Hong Kong UPR Coalition was facilitated by Justice Centre Hong Kong to represent the collaborative efforts of different civil society groups to advance human rights in Hong Kong. Comprising 45 non-governmental organisations from across the Hong Kong spectrum, it has been directed by the Hong Kong UPR Coalition Steering Committee, which consists of nine members, namely Civil Human Rights Front, Disabilities CV, The Hong Kong Society for Asylum-Seekers and Refugees, Hong Kong Watch, Justice Centre Hong Kong, Les Corner Empowerment Association, PEN Hong Kong, Pink Alliance and Planet Ally.
During previous UPR hearings, not one recommendation had been issued on Hong Kong. Through the efforts of the coalition in bringing together many voices in civil society together, in the 2018 hearing there were seven recommendations on Hong Kong, with five other references through questions in advance and statements, raising international attention on the deterioration of rights in Hong Kong. In total 12 countries used the UPR hearing to highlight their concerns with the human rights environment in Hong Kong. In response to the questions raised the China and Hong Kong Government have stated that they were willing to accept all but one of the recommendations, now enabling this and future UPR processes to be used as an advocacy tool that can be used to hold the Hong Kong government to account.