Reform needed for Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination laws, says Equal Opportunities Commission

Author: PM editorial | Date: 6 Apr 2016

More protection for people with disabilities and from minority ethnic backgrounds is identified as high priority

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has proposed a series of reforms to Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination laws which promise to increase protection for minority groups in the workplace.
 
A review of the country’s discrimination laws included a four-month public consultation, which aims to simplify, harmonise and modernise the legislation.
 
“Throughout the review, what has become clear is that there are multiple groups in society, including women, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities, who still cannot participate equally in everyday life and opportunities in this city. This is why it is time for Hong Kong to take our anti-discrimination ordinances to the next level,” said Dr. York Chow, chair of the EOC.
 
A total of 73 recommendations were made to the government, 27 of which were identified as high priority. These included: the right of women to return to a work position after maternity leave; prohibiting race discrimination in government positions; and more protection from discrimination for people with disabilities who are accompanied by assistance animals.
 
The review also stated there should be more effective application of the anti-discrimination ordinances, including making the definitions and protection against discrimination and harassment clearer and more consistent.
 
The Racial Discrimination Ordinance is considered one of the weakest parts of the country’s discrimination laws. It is still legal to discriminate against someone based on nationality or duration of stay in the country, in situations such as job or university applications.
 
In 2014, an EOC survey found that one in five people have suffered from discrimination at work, often because of their age. Only six per cent of those affected took action against it.
 
Accompanying the recommendations was a report summarising the 125,041 responses the EOC compiled from members of the public and organisations in Hong Kong. While the majority of organisations agreed with the proposals, the majority of individuals disagreed with many of them, suggesting there is still work to be done.
 
“Not only is it the most far-reaching review of the anti-discrimination legislation in the two decades since the Commission’s establishment in 1996, but it also received the largest-ever number of public responses in any single consultation exercise of the EOC. Such overwhelming response demonstrated the greater awareness and demand from the public of ensuring their right to non-discrimination,” said Dr Chow.