Panel vows to push for action on race discrimination bill

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2008, 12:00am

A Legislative Council bills committee will consider proposing an amendment to the Race Discrimination Bill if the government continues to ignore its concerns, the committee chairwoman said yesterday.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, who will join a delegation to Geneva early next month to attend meetings with members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said it would be better for the government to initiate an amendment.

'If the government continues its refusal to amend the bill, or its amendments are insufficient to allay our concerns, our next step is to see whether the bills committee can motion for an amendment,' she said.

Among the most controversial issues in the bill are its various government exemptions, narrow definitions of 'direct' and 'indirect' discrimination, and the exclusion of new mainland arrivals.

Ms Ng said committee members were frustrated with the government's inaction after the introduction of the bill in December 2006, and 18 committee meetings that followed.

Last night, a government spokesman insisted the administration was committed to combating racial discrimination.

He said the central government had told the UN committee that it would 'soon' submit its periodic reports on implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which has been criticised by rights groups as long overdue. The government would consider amending a clause to make it clear that the bill, when enacted, would apply to the administration.

Ms Ng said the dilemma the committee faced was that if it refused to pass the bill by the end of July, it would lapse and it could be many more years before the government broached the issue again.

Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor and a delegation member, said depending on the gravity of the situation, the UN committee could issue an 'early warning' or 'urgent action' report.