Equal Opportunities Commission

Lam can do much good as Exco convenor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am

Seriously, wouldn't it be better to have the former and current heads of the Equal Opportunities Commission serving together on the Executive Council than not? Or would you rather have it dominated by cronies of the new chief executive, such as Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun and Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, and his handpicked policy chiefs? Surely you need independent voices to prevent Exco from being turned into Leung Chun-ying's personal echo chamber?

Lam Woon-kwong, the current EOC chairman, is under pressure from some pan-democrats to quit his new post as Exco convenor. Lam said he might resign because the public might perceive his two jobs as a conflict of interest. If he goes, his critics are cutting off their noses to spite their own faces.

His EOC predecessor and fellow Exco member, Anna Wu Hung-yuk, yesterday came out in defence of Lam's integrity. And right she is. Both have a strong record of defending minority rights, gender equality, and equal job opportunity. More often than not, they took positions closer to those of the pan-democratic camp than of the government. Under their direction, the commission has taken on cases against the establishment and various government departments.

Sure, the EOC is supposed to be an independent watchdog. Having Lam as a government insider or Exco convenor may conceivably create a conflict in some highly hypothetical scenarios conjured up by his critics. In reality, such conflicts will hardly ever arise. The government has written so many statutory exemptions for itself that the EOC has limited power to act against it, compared with other social sectors. Just think about policy exemptions such as male villagers' right of inheritance of a plot for a small house in rural districts; the government's immunity from the anti-racism law; the 'localisation' - hiring of ethnic Chinese - of the civil service, especially in its top echelons. Such exemptions place it above the law.

Lam has nothing personal to gain by holding the two jobs. As a former policy secretary he is smart, capable and well-versed in government operations. He holds liberal views on most matters. Let him stay in Exco.