All groups are living in harmony in SAR, says Chinese General Chamber of Commerce

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2001, 12:00am

The largest body representing the Chinese business community has rejected calls for the introduction of an anti-racial discrimination law despite widespread support from foreign business chambers for the move.

This follows criticism of the Government in recent months by two United Nations anti-discrimination committees for failing to enact such a law.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 6,000 local members, said racial discrimination was not serious in Hong Kong and there was no need to legislate against it.

The chamber is the first organisation in the business community to formally announce its opposition to such legislation since the Government started a public consultation on the matter earlier this year.

Last month, the Home Affairs Bureau sent letters to 33 local and foreign chambers of commerce and employers' bodies to seek their views on whether to legislate against discrimination on the grounds of race.

The chamber said discrimination was difficult to define and outlawing it would trigger industrial disputes between employers and employees. 'All races are living in harmony in Hong Kong at present, and racial discrimination is not serious,' the chamber said.

It said also legislating would reduce the number of job openings as employers would be deterred from employing foreigners to avoid being dragged into discrimination lawsuits.

The view is in sharp contrast to foreign business chambers. Christopher Hammerbeck, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce, said the British business community in the SAR supported the introduction of such a law.

'Racial discrimination exists in Hong Kong. Legislation is a key element to win the battle of discrimination of all kinds, including racial discrimination,' he said, adding that such legislation should go hand in hand with public education.

Alan Matheson, executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said legislation and education were important tools to fight discrimination.

Frank Martin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce who supports such legislation, said it would not lead to industrial disputes nor would it stop foreigners from being employed.

Both the Australian and Indian chambers support the legislation.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has said legislation was not the best way to root out racial discrimination, saying education is a better option. Local human rights and anti-discrimination groups have been pressuring the Government for such legislation.

A spokeswoman for the Home Affairs Bureau said the administration had so far received 13 replies from various chambers, and had extended the consultation period until the end of the month. A final government decision is expected early next year.