Asia: Executive Director of Hong Kong-based AHRC accused of harassment against women


Sri Lanka Guardian made enquiries from the lips-zipped Chairman who attempted to undermine the serious complaint of the victim — but no response was received

Three years have been passed; no action against the alleged perpetrator

by Our Special Correspondent
(January 25, 2018, Beijing, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Executive Director of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) claiming to be promoting and protecting human rights in the targeted nations and also advocating for re-designing and re-engineering the justice institutions in Asia, has been accused of harassment against female staff members who previously worked in the organisation.
Bijo Francis, the Executive Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, is an Indian national lawyer originally from Thrissur, Kerala. After graduating, according to reliable sources, he managed to obtain a part-time employment opportunity with one of the local human rights organisations in the same state.
Later, he flew to Hong Kong to complete the masters in law at the University of Hong Kong. It was partly facilitated by the former executive director of the AHRC, Basil Fernando along with a well-connected human rights activist, Dr. Philip Setunga. Dr Setunga later discontinued his service with the AHRC after a failed attempt by the then executive director, Basil Fernando, to remove him.

Parts of the communications with the lips-zipped Chairperson

It was during this time at the university that Bijo Francis joined the AHRC as a “volunteer”. Afterwards, he started working as the “head of the country desk” of India.
Later he engineered the situation to take the head position of the organisation after a series of crises erupted during the tenure of his predecessor, a well-known and well-respected Chinese human rights activist.
According to reliable sources, the incumbent  Executive Director has been accused of harassing the female staff members. On several occasions, many of the victims chose to leave the organisation and remain silent.
But, at least one of the female staff members had the courage to make a written complaint against the harassments she encountered, and she demanded the executive director be held to account for abusing his privileges and powers to harass the female staff members and put the credibility of the organisation in jeopardy.
Apparently, the victim believed in the internal mechanism as she thought the credibility earned by this organisation, the Asian Legal Resource Centre, the sister organisation of the AHRC, holds General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
According to the email complaint made by the complainant, a former employee of the Asian Human Rights Commission, (almost all employees were appointed under the Asian Legal Resource Centre; which is an umbrella organisation of the AHRC) accused the Executive Director Bijo Francis for making a hostile situation against female staff members:

John J. Clancey, Chairman of the AHRC/ALRC

“First of all, you have treated my complaint as mere ‘views’, not as a complaint. This need to be corrected. It was a complaint against the Executive Director, Mr Bijo Francis for harassment and creating the hostile working environment for me. It is not clear to me why Mr. Francis was not called for hearing,” one of the victims wrote in the response to express the disappointment of the deliberate negligence and ignorance maintained by the long-service Chairman (Chairperson) of this organisation to shield the alleged perpetrator, Bijo Francis.
The victim is pointing at John J. Clancey, Chairman of the AHRC/ALRC, an American who has lived in Hong Kong for decades, for his negligence on this serious issue.
Replying to the complaint after a period of 10 months merely proves his insincerity in tackling this very serious issue.
According to the information available on the public domain, “John J. Clancey has been working as a solicitor with Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners since he was admitted as a solicitor in 1997. He is a founding member of the Executive Committee of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group; one of the legal advisers of the Professional Teachers Union; Legal Adviser of the Hong Kong Workers’ Health Centre.”

Meanwhile, responding to the victim, after keeping mum for over ten months, John Clancey wrote:
“I presented your views to the board, after which members of the management had input, followed by questions from and a discussion with board members. The Board then accepted that the management had sufficient reasons……”
Our investigation revealed that this response was a pathetic attempt to protect the alleged perpetrator. Clancey did not take this issue seriously and in failing to do so helped the alleged perpetrator, Bijo Francis, to continue his authority without hindrance.
“Your reply was another layer of trauma for me and I was taken aback with the language of the email justifying the wrongdoings of the Executive Director,” a victim wrote back to Jack Clancey for his irrational response to the serious complaint.
Meanwhile, “John J. Clancey as the Chairman of this organisation has lied to the victim,” reliable sources who have been the members of the management committee of the AHRC/ALRC mentioned in his response, have revealed:
“There was not a single discussion about the harassment against the female staff member by this Executive Director with the management committee members. We believe the response by the Chairman has twisted the real problem and undermined the graveness of the victim by saying that there was an input by the Members of the Management Committee,” sources added.

RELATED VIDEO: How we can end harassment at work , TED talk by Gretchen Carlson

“It is unbelievable, because, the Chairman is a known person in Hong Kong for protecting human rights, but the way he has acted in this traumatic problem is putting his own credibility on the knife edge,” sources further observed.
The management committee at the time the incident was reported consisted of five members including: the Executive Director (the alleged perpetrator), the Director for Policies and Programmes, Basil Fernando, a Chinese female staff member, Louise Sun, who is currently working from Australia, and others from Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
When Sri Lanka Guardian started investigating this incident we contacted John J. Clancey by email on two occasions while sending a carbon copy of the same emails to the other Board of Directors as well as the Executive Director, Bijo Francis and Director for Policies & Programmes, Basil Fernando.
Meanwhile, earlier, in 2014, an ex-employee of the ALRC, John S. Sloan, (Editorial Assistant) asked Clancey if he was aware of the wrongdoings of Francis against the members of the staff and he was threatened by Clancey with legal action if he involved him (Clancey) in the issue.
In our enquiry, we asked the Chairman of the AHRC/ALRC, whether there was any complaint against the current Executive Director regarding harassment against female staff members; and what, if any, was the action taken by the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Organisation. Were there any investigative reports compiled by the Board of Directors as the answer to this serious issue, the Sri Lanka Guardian enquired.

John S. Sloan, Editorial Assistant, ex-employee of the AHRC/ALRC

But, unfortunately, Sri Lanka Guardian has received no response so far. The enquiry remains open and the Chairman of the AHRC/ ALRC still has an opportunity to submit his take on this issue.
Meanwhile, the Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a liable statement against the Sri Lanka Guardian and one of its editors last year. In our preliminary response we, Sri Lanka Guardian, have asked 17 questions to be answered as they have admitted some of our news stories published in last year are about them. But, none of the responsible parties in this organisation has provided answers.
According to the reliable sources, the next annual board meeting of the AHRC/ALRC will be held in the last days of this month (January 2018). News is circulating among local partners of this organisation that the incumbent Executive Director will ask for “permission” to terminate a few more staff members working in this organisation.
We, as the people’s media entity advocating truth and justice, would like to repeat our request that this organisation to review the complaint made over the years ago and prove through an impartial investigation to the general public that the competent authority of your organisation is absolutely cleared of the accusations.
We are looking forward to hearing from you. If you are truly working on justice, let the justice be done in your own house first before anywhere else.