Anti-racism bill to go to Legco by July

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am

An anti-racism bill will be introduced to the Legislative Council by mid-July, a government official told a United Nations hearing in New York yesterday.

The announcement by Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor comes as concern groups have been increasingly troubled by the delay in enacting a law, which the government committed itself to introducing almost three years ago.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Committee hearing on Hong Kong, Mrs Lam said the bill was being finalised.

'We were not put off by the complexity of the subject, nor the sometimes lukewarm reception we received from some quarters,' she said, adding after the meeting that it was the bureau's 'target and objective' to introduce the bill during the present legislative session.

'We are working very hard to push ahead with this target. It is a very complex bill and some people still have a lot of reservations.'

Yesterday, which marked International Day on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, more than 7,000 students wore yellow and brown ribbons representing racial equality in Hong Kong as part of a campaign by ethnic minority advocacy group Unison, which has been lobbying for a law for several years.

The group's executive director, Chow Sau-fong, said government officials had made conflicting comments on the timetable for legislation and she had heard that several departments had serious reservations about the bill.

'We hope there will be no more delays because we have waited many years,' Ms Chow said.

Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said there was clearly strong resistance within the government to the bill.

'This kind of delay is really troubling and I can't see any legal or technical factors which would prevent it from going ahead - only political factors,' he said.

'Our understanding is that the bureau faces serious difficulties because there is a lack of support ... the Education and Manpower Bureau had quite a negative attitude at a recent hearing.'

Mr Law said although the legislature had passed a resolution three years ago to call for an anti-racism law, it appeared that the government as a whole was less committed. He called on the administration to find the political will to pass a law conforming with international standards.

The UN committee asked the government to respond on issues ranging from domestic violence to national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law and interpretations of the mini-constitution by the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The hearing's conclusions are expected at the end of the month.