Ethnicity of committee members irrelevant
Kevin Sinclair's column headlined 'Approach to racism coloured by nanny state folly' (South China Morning Post, June 26), contained some unfair comments about the new Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony that held its first meeting on June 21.
The Home Affairs Bureau established the committee in accordance with a commitment we made in our 2002 Policy Address booklet, to advise us on public education and publicity, to foster racial harmony in the community, and to enhance mutual understanding between persons of different ethnic origin. The committee comprises representatives of both non-governmental organisations and of the government departments most closely involved in the issues it will address.
The non-governmental members were appointed, in their personal capacity, on the basis of their knowledge of the issues and our confidence that they were the best people we knew for the job the committee has to do. Their ethnicity was and remains irrelevant.
The question of legislation, to which the article refers, is outside the committee's terms of reference. I share Mr Sinclair's view that changing prejudices and perceptions is a major task. We have been trying to tackle it since 1997. With input from the committee, we hope to do more and better.
The article expresses concerns about the fact that the meeting was closed to the public and the media. In fairness, it might also have mentioned that afterwards the committee chairman briefed the media on its proceedings.
At the meeting, members expressed the view that they should be able to speak frankly during meetings and did not wish the views they expressed there to be made public. But they and we agreed that - should members so choose - they could speak freely about the issues on the committee's agenda, provided they did not disclose the positions taken, or views expressed, by other members.
for Secretary for Home Affairs