Top UN body rejects stand on race law

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 12:00am

A top United Nations committee has rejected the Government's argument against legislation prohibiting racial discrimination and called for a thorough review on what it described as an 'unsatisfactory' situation in the SAR.

In a report released last night, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that legislation similar to that against sex and disability discrimination should be adopted.

'The committee does not accept the argument put forward for not initiating such legislation, that is, such legislation would not be supported by society as a whole,' the committee said.

The criticisms were made in the concluding observations by the panel after a government delegation attended a two-day hearing under the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Geneva two week ago.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has said legislation is not the solution to racial discrimination.

The Home Affairs Bureau has launched consultations with the business sector on the issue, although officials have remained cautious on whether such a law would be necessary.

The committee said it had taken note of the ongoing consultations, but reiterated its concerns over the continuous absence of legal protection against race discrimination.

The Government has been urged to review the existing 'unsatisfactory' situation.

The committee said the SAR should also adopt appropriate legislation to prohibit discrimination - on race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin - and provide legal remedy similar to that for gender and disability.

Non-governmental watchdogs that attended the hearing last night welcomed the report.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the report would mount pressure on the Government to speed up legislation. 'The committee has spelled out in solid wordings about the problem. It has also rejected the Government's argument and recommended legislation,' Mr Law said.

Society for Community Organisation spokesman Ho Hei-wah said the report showed the Government's position on racial discrimination was clearly not in line with that held in the international community.

'We urge the Government to take the committee's view seriously and discharge its signatory obligation,' Mr Ho said.

The committee also reiterated concerns over the situation of foreign domestic helpers, saying the so-called 'two-week rule' requiring maids to leave within 14 days of their contracts expiring might be discriminatory.

A spokesman for the Home Affairs Bureau said last night the Government had launched a review on whether such legislation was necessary. The administration will decide on the way forward early next year after considering views expressed, including those by the business community, ethnic minority groups and the public, he added.