CEDAW and women's rights in post-1997 Hong Kong

Hau Nung, Annie CHAN

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


CEDAW has been applied to Hong Kong since 1996 when it was still under British rule, and after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997 continues to be applied to what is now one of China’s “Special Administrative Regions”. The passing of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (1996), the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission (1996) and the Women’s Commission (2001) are often cited as landmarks in Hong Kong’s efforts to respond to CEDAW. However, NGOs have over the years produced shadow reports criticizing the inadequacies and systemic problems hindering full implementation of CEDAW’s articles. This paper discusses the Hong Kong situation in terms CEDAW’s role as a key instrument to the promotion of women’s rights. In particular, how Hong Kong’s unique relationship with China and neo-liberalism has resulted in two glaring issues: (1) the marginalization of new migrants and migrant workers, a large proportion of whom are women, and (2) the inability for legislators and government to push forth policies which could enhance women’s situations. Firstly, the government’s attempts to speed up integration with mainland China in terms of population, economy and culture has been met with unforeseen levels of resistance from Hong Kong people, fuelling exclusionary and racist attitudes amongst certain increasingly vocal sectors of the population. Secondly, the central government’s reluctance to push forth constitutional reforms to speed up the process of democratization has led to difficulties for effective governance, creating further obstacles for women’s full participation in the economy and in politics. The paper concludes with insights from the Hong Kong case regarding the limitations of CEDAW, in particular the over-reliance upon the state and related central mechanisms to take up a key role to promote women’s full participation in society.


ConferenceXVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology : Facing an unequal world: Challenges for global sociology
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