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Thursday, March 19, 2020, 10:42
EOC needs powers to stop discrimination as well as hate crimes
By Tony Kwok
Thursday, March 19, 2020, 10:42 By Tony Kwok

For many years, most Hongkongers were in the habit of calling Indians and Pakistanis “ah cha” and Europeans “gweilo”. We have been made aware that such appellations are racist since the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). So there is now a noticeable decrease in the use of such discriminatory terms as doing so can constitute an offense under the racial discrimination law enforced by the EOC. However, in recent years, some Hong Kong people, encouraged by opposition politicians and some biased media outlets, started referring to mainland Chinese using all sorts of derogatory terms. In some restaurants, they even put up signs indicating that mainland Chinese are not welcome. All this is blatant discrimination and reflects very negatively on our society. This must stop!

Sadly, discrimination has raised its ugly head in political and economic spheres in recent years. While advertising specifically for a female secretary constitutes sexual discrimination, a local restaurant has even openly advertised for workers on the condition that they are not pro-government in their political stance.

Even greater provocation resulted when the Sham Shui Po district councilors, Lee Man-ho and Lao Ka-hang, displayed a sign outside their ward office that read: “No blue ribbons and dogs allowed”. Lee even openly stated on a radio show that he does not consider “blue ribbons” — people regarded as pro-government — to be human beings! All this shows that we have serious loopholes in our laws to effectively tackle all manner of discrimination.

On the face of it, these are clearly serious cases of discrimination. Unfortunately, the EOC, which was established in May 1996 with the ambitious goal of eliminating discrimination from Hong Kong, can only implement the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO), and the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) in Hong Kong. In other words, it can only deal with discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status and race. In the cases cited, since Hong Kong people and mainlanders belong to the same race, it does not come under the purview of racial discrimination, or under discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, disability or family status.

The EOC should make it known to the public that it is urgently taking steps to amend the law in regard to the inadequacies exposed by the discrimination cases cited.  At the same time, it should encourage the public to lodge complaints for it to better accurately evaluate the public sentiment and gauge the dissatisfaction level

However, most Hong Kong people are unable to distinguish the legal differences that resulted in the EOC being inundated with complaints about discrimination in these cases and the EOC being criticized for failing to act. The EOC has taken pains to explain that its hands are tied by its limited jurisdiction under current laws to deal with such discrimination. It reiterates in its press release that it “opposes any sort of discriminatory behavior, and wishes all sectors in society to forgo their prejudices and avoid any acts or remarks that will fuel further division and conflicts in society”, but the complainants are not placated.

The reality is that the current laws against discrimination have serious loopholes as vividly illustrated by the examples cited. We urgently need additional laws against this new type of political discrimination and hate crimes. They can be justified under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which China (including the Hong Kong SAR) is a signatory, in particular, under Articles 17 and 20.

Article 17, inter alia, states that “No one shall be subjected to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation and everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”  Article 20 states that “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

The EOC should make it known to the public that it is urgently taking steps to amend the law in regard to the inadequacies exposed by the discrimination cases cited.  At the same time, it should encourage the public to lodge complaints for it to better accurately evaluate the public sentiment and gauge the dissatisfaction level. It should also carry out fact-check exercises on these complaints, and if the facts are confirmed, it can issue a public reprimand and expose the names of the people or organizations concerned, similar to the public-shaming practice adopted by the Consumer Council to improve consumer service without having to resort to litigation.

It is sad to see Hong Kong’s much-vaunted reputation as a safe, tolerant and harmonious society obliterated almost overnight by the radical actions of extreme political activists. They are supported and abetted by self-serving politicians and media organizations with “noble” pretenses. The social turmoil and economic disruption they created must stop. It is time that ordinary citizens unite to rebuild Hong Kong and rid it of political hypocrisy and social hatred. We need to wrest our city back from the clutches of these phony “democrats” and fake human rights champions! There is no time to lose!  

The author is a council member of the Chinese Society of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, an international anti-corruption consultant and a former deputy commissioner of the ICAC.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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