Sunday, January 12, 2014

Deadline extended until January 17

Due to increased interest in the Human Rights Press Awards -- organized by the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong; Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association -- we are extending the deadline to this Friday.

We are looking for excellent coverage of rights-related issues from the Asia-Pacific region, in English or Chinese. Journalists working in Hong Kong or Macau, or as a correspondent based in Asia, may enter. Categories include newspapers, magazines, commentary, TV, radio, photography, cartoons and online publishing. Entries must have been published or broadcast between January 1 and December 31, 2013. 

Forms can be downloaded here.
For more information or media inquiries, please email

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Deadline This Friday




The deadline for Asia’s most prestigious honors recognizing human rights reporting will be this Friday, January 10, 2014. We welcome entries covering rights issues in Asia, published or broadcast in English- or Chinese-language media from January 1 to December 31, 2013. Categories include newspapers, magazines, editorials & commentary, radio, TV, photography, cartoons and online publishing.

Each entry must clearly cite the specific article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the work seeks to address.

Entry forms are attached to this message. They can also be downloaded here.  
For further information or media inquiries, please email

Foreign Correspondents' Club - (852) 2521-1511 - Ms. Chan Hoi-Lo
Amnesty International - (852) 2300-1250 - Ms. Mabel Au
Hong Kong Journalists Association - (852) 2591-0692












Saturday, March 21, 2009

13th Annual Human Rights Awards 2008





Journalists from Bangladesh to South Korea submitted a total of 215 entries in the 2008 Human Rights Press Awards, Asia’s most prestigious journalism competition. The prizes were awarded at a luncheon held on 21 March at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong.

The awards are co-organized by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong. This was the first year that eligibility was expanded to include journalists from Macau, a well as foreign correspondents across Asia.

This year’s distinguished guest speaker was journalist Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for the Straits Times who spent more than a 1,000 days in Chinese prisons on espionage charges and was freed just 13 months ago after an international campaign for his release.

Mr Ching urged President Hu Jintao to free political prisoners as an act of recognition for all those who have died since 1949 under Communist rule.

“I think the CCP owes the Chinese people an apology,” he said. “As a token of remorse it should seriously consider the proposal by many legal experts in the mainland to declare a special pardon for political prisoners on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, to prove that it would have a fresh start with the people.”

There were 98 submissions in the English-language categories. The judges gave seven (7) Award Plaques and 16 Certificates of Merit.

There were 54 entries in the Chinese-language categories. The judges gave five (5) Award Plaques and 11 Certificates of Merit.

In the Photography category, judged by a separate panel, there were 63 entries. The judges gave one (1) Award Plaque and six (6) Certificates of Merit.

The Awards include news, features, magazines, commentary and analysis, radio, television, cartoons and online publication. They honor high-quality reporting on any area under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

FCC President Ernst Herb said the Awards Ceremony “once again offers us a timely opportunity to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to press freedom and to the right of free expression.”

Milabel Amar, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said “the right to seek, give, receive and share information without fear or apprehension of persecution is a right that must be available to, and freely exercised by everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, religion or political affiliation: the enjoyment of other human rights that ensure lives of dignity are anchored on this.”

Stanley Leung, Honorary Treasurer of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, called on more large news organizations to take part.

“We can see quite a good number of entries are submitted by news agencies and they select the best internally before they submit for the Awards. Comparatively speaking, such agencies are few, but we believe that if more of them were willing to enter the competition, they would definitely increase concerns about human rights in society.

“This year (2009) is considered a politically sensitive year, and we believe there will be many worthwhile news stories for people to write about. We look forward to next year's Human Rights Press Awards.”

A winners list, text of Mr. Ching’s speech, speaker’s profile, and information about the Judging Panels and the Awards can be found at,, or

Ching Cheong's Speech


Why President Hu Jintao
Should Pardon Political Prisoners

Human Rights Press Awards 2008
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong

Distinguished Guests,
Members of the Organization Committee,
Fellow Journalists,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed my great honour to be invited to address this award ceremony. First of all, let us congratulate all the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards organized by the Amnesty International, the FCC and the HKJA. Through your professional work, you have contributed towards raising human rights concern in our society, thereby making Hong Kong a better, safer and freer place to live in. Every HK citizen would be deeply indebted to you for playing this very crucial vigilance role.

My personal experience testifies to the importance of this role.

Last year, roughly at the same time and in this same room, I told my media colleagues that from my terrible ordeal I had come to appreciate all the more the core values of Hong Kong.

Freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights are values held dear to us. They provide a social and political environment for every individual to bring his or her potential into full play. These are the values that sustain our society and make Hong Kong tick.

Personally, I feel all the more indebted to the local and international journalist and human rights associations for their unrelenting efforts to get me out of Chinese prison. So please allow me to show my heart-felt gratitude to you all.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has repeatedly told its people that human rights are an alien concept not suited to the Chinese situation. It considers human rights as a weapon used by the West to sabotage political and social stability in China.

The CCP lost sight of the fact that China is also home to the concept of human rights.

The first indigenous book on the modern concept of human right was written by the late Ming Dynasty scholar Huang Zongxi (黄宗羲(1610-1695))in 1662, entitled “Awaiting the Twilight” (《明夷待访录》).

Liang Qichao (梁啟超), the famous leader of the Hundred-Day Reform Movement in 1898, found in Huang’s work many concepts of human rights similar to those expounded by such Dutch and British counterparts as Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). Mr Liang admitted that Huang’s writing, which preceded his own by almost 200 years, had been a source of inspiration for him.

My point here is not to claim credit for the Chinese as being the first to advance the concept of human rights, but to disavow the CCP’s assertion that human rights is an alien notion. Quite the contrary: The human-right concept of Huang Zongxi, which was developed quite independently of his Western counterparts at roughly the same time, is vivid proof of the universality of human rights, a fact that the CCP has tried hard to deny.

In fact, human rights, democracy and freedom, along with socialism, were the watchwords for the founders of the CCP, like Professor Chen Duxiu. A simple content analysis of the New Youth, the most influential magazine propelling the 1919 May Fourth Movement and founded by Professor Chen, reveals the following.

Frequency of Occurrence of the key concepts in the New Youth magazine (1915-1926):

(Source: Adapted from Table 8.5 on p. 392 of the book "The Origin of Modern Thoughts in China" by Jing Guangtao and Liu Qingfeng, Chinese University Press 2000)

From the above table, it is clear that to the early CCP founders -- socialism apart -- freedom, people’s rights (including human and civil rights) and democracy (including Mr Democracy and Mr D) were the three most craved-for values. It was the very call for these three values that gave birth to the CCP.

Once brought into being, the CCP fed on these values to grow and develop at the expense of its political rivals. A survey of the main editorials in the Xinhua Daily, a CCP newspaper published in the wartime capital of Chongqing in the 1940’s suggests that the CCP was indeed actively advocating for democracy, freedom and human rights up to 1949, when it gained power.

CCP leader Mao Zedong proudly revealed the three secrets of his success: the party, the gun and the pen (which meant propaganda and the united front). Relying on the pen, the CCP won people’s heart because it advocated freedom, democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, such advocacy stopped after 1949.

Why? It was not that human rights, freedom and democracy were losing their universality. What had changed was the CCP itself. Once in power, the CCP was not immune to Lord Acton’s law of power corruption, which gradually alienated the party from the people.

In the early 1990s a young lecturer at Zhongshan University, Chen Min, tried to compile these pro-human rights editorials into a book: Herald of History: the solemn pledges of a half-century ago (《历史的先声——半个世纪前的庄严承) reminding the CCP of what it had said before. Soon after the book was published in 1994, he lost his lectureship. He now writes under the pen name Xiaoshu in the Southern Metropolitan Daily.

By supporting the CCP, the Chinese people had hoped to bring about an age of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. Instead they had ushered in an era of terror and atrocity involving the gravest breach of human rights mankind had ever experienced. Between 1949 and 1976, the total number of unnatural deaths amounted to 40 million to 60 million, according to different estimates by both Chinese and Western scholars. The World Health Organization’s 2002 Report on Violence called it one of the four calamities of mankind in the 20th century.

Thus, I think the CCP owes the Chinese people an apology. As a token of remorse it should seriously consider the proposal by many legal experts in the mainland to declare a special pardon for political prisoners on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, to prove that it would have a fresh start with the people.

Based on my personal experience, I feel that resolving the miscarriages of justice is especially urgent as a first step towards redressing past human rights atrocities. My reasoning is as follows:

First, at the Fifth National Conference on Criminal Sentencing Work held in 2006, Mr Luo Gan, a former Politburo Standing Committee member noted: “We must effectively guarantee quality in handling cases and strengthen the protection of human rights in the area of criminal justice. We must … firmly grasp the facts, evidence, procedure, and applicable law in each case so that every case possesses clear facts, sufficient evidence, accurate convictions, appropriate sentencing, and lawful procedure that can stand the inspection of history.” From these words by a top party leader responsible for China’s law enforcement work, we can clearly see that the authorities had in the past not mastered these four central facets and that this failure has been widespread.
Second, the Legal Daily reported that in 2006 China’s public security ministry had done a lot to prevent the extraction of confessions through torture. Later, in the second half of 2007, the same paper published a series of articles examining why the problem of extracting confession through torture “had not stopped, despite repeated prohibitions.” From these reports, we can infer that the extraction of confessions through torture is a very serious problem (see Legal Daily, February 8, 2007)

Third: In 2007, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a new Lawyer’s Law, explicitly including a section on the “Professional Rights and Obligations of Lawyers.” Such rights include the rights of lawyers in the criminal justice procedure to meet with clients, view case materials, investigate and obtain evidence, and defend their clients. An explanatory note of the law said that the new law took a first step towards resolving the long-existing problems in the legal profession of “difficulty to meet clients,” “difficulty to view evidence,” and “difficulty to investigate and obtain evidence.” This is a great step forward, to be sure, but it also highlights the fact that defendants in the past were unable to receive proper legal protection, which is a basic human right.

Extraction of confessions through torture during the investigative stage, failure to meet “the test of history” in the trial stage, and depriving defendants of their right to legal protection together led to proliferation of human right abuses. Granting a special pardon, especially for political prisoners, would signal the CCP’s resolve to improve the country’s human rights situation.

Thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping passed a “Resolution on History” resolving serious contradictions within the Party and clearing the way for 30 years of prosperity. Today, if Hu Jintao were to issue a special pardon, expressing the government’s sincerity in healing old wounds and granting people a fresh start, resolving historical difficulties and enhancing the peaceful atmosphere of society, people would more than welcome it.

Remember this Chinese saying: “Invincible are the benevolent, their love boundless.”

I hope the CCP can give this idea serious consideration.

Thank you for your attention.

21 March 2009

Ching Cheong's Profile

Speaker’s Profile


Ching Cheong was born in China in 1949 and brought up in Hong Kong. He graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 1973, majoring in Economics and Geography. After teaching for a year he took up journalism, which has been his profession since.

He first joined the Wen Wei Po, a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong, and became its deputy chief editor and chief commentator until 1989, when he quit the paper in protest against the Tiananmen crackdown. He founded the Contemporary news magazine focusing on China's political and social developments. He joined the Straits Times in 1996 and is now its Senior Writer.

He has specialized in political news in the Greater China area throughout his career, and has had in-depth postings experience in Beijing and Taipei.

While working at the Wen Wei Po, he was known for championing press reform by breaking a series of political taboos on reporting China news. Since 1989, he has been active in promoting press freedom, political reform and human rights in China.

In 2005, his incisive analysis and critical commentary unfortunately landed him in a Chinese jail on an espionage charge, which he has always denied. During his imprisonment, Hong Kong society mounted a citywide campaign, cutting across all political and religious lines, to press for his release. His case also became an international cause.

Mr Ching was released on parole in February 2008 after serving more than half of his five-year prison term.

21 March 2009