CHINA is likely to shirk its duty to report on human rights in Hong Kong when it takes control of the colony next year, the worlds' leading lawyers are warning.

The warning comes in the wake of China's refusal to allow eight Hong Kong protesters to enter the country to present a petition demanding safeguards for Hong Kong's democracy last week.

Under the joint declaration China signed with the UK in 1984, China, once it takes control of Hong Kong, is supposed to report to the Human Rights Committee of the United

Nations on what measures it is taking to protect the rights of Hong Kong citizens. The UK has fufilled its obligations on human rights measures introduced to the colony.

But the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), parent of the UK's Justice group, says China is trying to duck out of responsibility. China claims that because it has not signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, it has no obligation to report to the Human Rights Committee.

Sir William Goodhart QC, a member of the ICJ executive committee, said: “The convention is the main human rights instrument in Hong Kong. China agreed in the joint declaration that the convention would remain in force in Hong Kong after it takes over.

Reporting duties are an essential part of the convention. If China doesn't accept its obligation to report to the Human Rights Committee, then it is in breach of the joint declaration.”

The ICJ is calling on China to co-operate with the UK and the Human Rights Committee to work out a way to submit reports on Hong Kong. Goodhart said he thought it unlikely that China would comply.