Government must do more to embrace race discrimination bill

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am

The prolonged debate over the race discrimination bill in the Legislative Council is coming to an end.

But there are many advocates who have worked for years to have legislation in Hong Kong who are still very concerned by two areas that the bill does not cover.

First, the fact that it is not legally binding for the government. This means that, if the administration is accused of discrimination, it cannot be sued. Second, there is the issue of language. Currently, language cannot be regarded as grounds for discrimination, as it has been exempted from the bill.

Some people may feel that it is a great victory to get the government to agree to a race discrimination bill, even if it is not perfect. On one hand, I do want the bill to be enacted. It notifies the general public that racial discrimination is prohibited in this society. It is an indicator to us of our social responsibilities. But, if you read the bill thoroughly, you realise that it allows for many discriminatory practices, included the two mentioned above.

However, the more depressing factor has been that, throughout the whole debate, the lack of commitment by the government to the bill and maintaining racial equality has been only too evident. Not only is the bill drafted in such a way that the government can get rid of it; there is no guarantee that any of the other pro-racial-equality policy guidelines and administrative measures will be endorsed, either. Upholding racial equality is about upholding basic human rights, to which all citizens are entitled. The government's reluctance to do this reflects its lack of responsibility in responding to the needs of society.

While the business sector now has more awareness of corporate social responsibility, our government's social responsibility seems to be lagging behind.

There's a corporate social responsibility index that exists for companies to register how they are doing in terms of the impact their businesses have on society and the environment.

Maybe it is time for a government responsibility index.

Baig Raees Begum, Pok Fu Lam