A Hong Kong government department has been found to have made changes to an NGO’s submission to a UN rights body.

Halo Fund’s two-page submission, which appears on the UN’s website, shows two edits made by a user called “CMAB” when the “track changes” view is switched on. “CMAB” are the initials of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the department responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution.

halo fund
An edit made by a user called “CMAB” on Halo Fund’s submission to a United Nations committee. Photo: Screenshot.

The first edit is the addition of a space in one of the paragraphs, while the second is the inclusion of “Halo Fund Limited” – the full name of the NGO – at the end of the document. Both edits were made on December 29 last year.

The CMAB’s apparent edits first came to light in a report by local media outlet Ming Pao.

halo fund
An edit made by a user called “CMAB” on Halo Fund’s submission to a United Nations committee, and a sentence that appears to be feedback for the writer. Photo: Screenshot.

Besides the two edits, a sentence – “Since the protection is not limited to work place equality, we suggest that the last sentence be removed” – was added to a numbered bullet point about the Hong Kong government’s commitment to safeguarding women’s rights.

It is unclear, however, who wrote the sentence.

In response to HKFP, the CMAB said NGOs that wished to express their views to the UN committee should do so independently. However, if the NGO had questions about formatting or the submission procedure, it could ask for assistance from the government.

“As the relevant United Nations committee only accepts submissions from organisations, not individuals, the department advised the organisation to write its name,” a CMAB spokesperson said, referring to the addition of “Halo Fund Limited” at the end of the document.

Halo Fund
Volunteers with the Halo Fund distribute face masks to schools in Yuen Long. Photo: Halo Fund, via Facebook.

“The department stresses that it did not take part in writing the relevant report, and did not offer any comments on its contents,” it added.

Jason Chung, the director of Halo Fund and whose name is written in the submission, did not respond to a request for comment from HKFP. Chung is also a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)’s Yuen Long branch.

United Nations meeting

Halo Fund’s report is one of more than 30 focused on Hong Kong issues that have been submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ahead of a meeting next week. The committee is tasked with monitoring signatories’ implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which ensures access to adequate housing, education, social security and other rights.

The committee will review mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau issues next Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the UN, state parties must report on the progress made towards adopting measures relating to the covenant every five years. The United Nations invites input from civil society groups ahead of these reports.

united nations
The United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Wikicommons.

In its submission, Halo Fund said “foreign countries or overseas forces” had interfered in Hong Kong’s affairs and that the national security law had been effective in bringing stability to Hong Kong after months of unrest in 2019. The NGO also accused “foreign countries or overseas forces” of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.

The report also highlighted the government’s education policies, including its expenditure on education and how “student [sic] have equal opportunity to get into higher education after taking public exams.”

Little can be found about Halo Fund online. According to a profile picture on its Facebook page, on which there are only three posts, the NGO was founded in 2011.

Dozens of submissions

Most of the submissions made ahead of the UN committee meeting next week were sent by pro-establishment groups, among them the Hong Kong and Mainland Legal Profession Association, the Yuen Long Youth Association and a committee under the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions.

Yuen Long Youth Association
The Yuen Long Youth Association. Photo: Yuen Long Youth Association, via Facebook.

Others include overseas-based NGOs including Hong Kong Watch and Human Rights Watch, as well as local human rights law firm Daly & Associates and NGO Society for Community Organisation.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.