Lam's dual role forces lobby group rethink

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am


A lobby group planning to take the government to court over language teaching for ethnic minorities says it will have to rethink its approach to the case, having earlier discussed it with Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong.

The group, Hong Kong Unison, fears Lam's decision to keep his EOC job and serve as Executive Council convenor will affect the case, its executive director, Fermi Wong Wai-fun said yesterday.

Wong said she had told Lam just before his Exco appointment about the group's strategy for taking the Education Bureau to court.

'We now have to map out a new set of strategies,' Wong said.

The case is the only specific example so far put forward of a possible conflict of interest arising from Lam's dual role by critics of the arrangement. Lam, who had come under pressure to give up one of the two roles, said on Wednesday he would serve out his term as EOC chairman, which ends in January.

Hong Kong Unison had planned to file a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission this year and take the Education Bureau to court for violating the racial discrimination ordinance.

It says the bureau segregates certain racial groups in designated schools and fails to provide adequate Chinese-language support to ethnic minority children.

Wong cast doubt on Lam's vow to avoid 'any real or perceived conflicts' while serving out his term.

'If the education chief [Eddie Ng Hak-kim] asks Lam what the Education Bureau can do as a minimum to avoid being sued by us, I wonder what advice Lam can give,' she said. 'How can he reassure us he won't talk about legal cases in Exco?'

Lam was taken to task by other NGOs for violating the Paris Principles, which state that human rights watchdogs should be independent of government.

Eric Lai Yan-ho, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, said the affair could be seen as a precedent to block the application of international human rights standards in future.

Before Lam made his decision, executive councillor and former commission chief Anna Wu Hung-yuk backed him, saying that having a person who worked at the centre of the government could help promote the watchdog's spirit.

But Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said: 'It isn't necessary for Lam to keep his job as EOC chairman so as to promote the spirit of equal opportunities inside the government.'