International human rights law and refugee protection in Asian states not party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

Principal Investigator: Kelley Loper
Project Period: 01/2018-12/2019
Funding Source: Hong Kong Research Grants Council, General Research Fund

Some have questioned the continuing relevance of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (Refugee Convention). International human rights law has expanded rapidly since 1951 and, in principle, applies to all human beings including refugees. General and specialised United Nations (UN) treaties and the interpretive materials produced by human rights monitoring bodies have further clarified states’ obligations to protect refugees and other migrants beyond the confines of the Refugee Convention. This study aims to examine the application of international human rights law to refugee protection in Asian states not party to the Refugee Convention. The potential impact of more recent international human rights treaties on the protection of refugees has particular significance in Asia since only nine of twenty-seven states and jurisdictions in three Asian sub-regions have acceded to the Convention. Although this study will consider all UN core international human rights instruments, it will focus on the application of CEDAW and the CRC in Asia in particular. It will analyse the impact of states’ interaction with the international human rights regime on the development of refugee law in the region.

Legal Assistance for Asylum Seekers and Torture Claimants in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Kelley Loper 
Co-Investigator: Simon Young 
Project Period: October 2009 – September 2012 
Funding Source: Research Grants Council Public Policy Research Grant 2009/2010 
This study aims to identify alternative approaches to the provision of legal assistance to asylum seekers and torture claimants through an examination of relevant legal assistance schemes in other common law jurisdictions. The project will determine gaps in Hong Kong law and policy and then assess whether any elements of the comparative models investigated are appropriate for adoption in the Hong Kong context. The study seeks to identify an effective legal aid and assistance model for claimants and to determine what criteria can be used to measure suitability of comparative models for potential application in Hong Kong.


Principal Investigator: Kelley Loper 
Project Period: 
Funding Source: 
The Refugee Convention and Protocol are the key international legal documents that set out the definition of a refugee and the rights of refugees to adequate protection. These instruments have not been extended to the Hong Kong SAR, although they apply to the People’s Republic of China and the Macau SAR. In addition, a protected status for refugees or asylum seekers does not exist in Hong Kong law or policy. The SAR government’s current approach is to treat all arrivals in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115) and immigration guidelines which do not mention or require different treatment for asylum seekers or refugees. Apart from a mechanism to assess torture claims under Article 3(1) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“Torture Convention”), the Hong Kong government has not established refugee status determination procedures. The Hong Kong government has stated in the past that it does not intend to request extension of the Refugee Convention to the SAR and believes that extension is undesirable. It has also has stated that it does not plan to implement a refugee status determination mechanism and instead relies on the UNHCR’s Hong Kong sub-office to process asylum seekers’ applications in Hong Kong. There is no formal system for directing asylum seekers to the UNHCR, however, and access to the UNHCR depends on individual initiative and knowledge or on the discretion of immigration officials who may or may not contact the UNHCR sub-office when approached by someone claiming asylum.


Submissions and Policy Papers

Ways to improve the situation of refugees, torture claimants and asylum seekers in Hong Kong: July 2013

On 18 July 2013 former CCPL Director Simon Young, Director Puja Kapai and Deputy Director Kelley Loper jointly submitted a paper to the Members of the Legislative Council Panel for their consideration at the Special Meeting of the LegCo Panel on Welfare Services. The paper recommends that the Hong Kong Government commission a comprehensive comparative study of the basic social, medical and economic benefits/entitlements provided to refugees, torture claimants and asylum seekers in a representative range of jurisdictions.


Submission on Hong Kong’s International Legal Obligations toward Refugees and Asylum Seekers For Consideration at the Joint Meeting of the Legislative Council Panels on Welfare Services and Security on the situation of asylum seekers, refugees and claimants against torture in Hong Kong: July 2006

Kelley Loper, Research Assistant Professor