Equality body under new language attack

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Equal Opportunities Commission is facing fresh accusations that it is discriminating against people who cannot read either Chinese or English.

The commission's code of practice on how to eliminate discrimination and harassment among racial groups was criticised when the first draft, in October, was published only in Chinese and English.

The commission then translated it into four other languages and extended consultation for a month.

But when the updated version was presented to the Legislative Council, it was again only in Chinese and English. The revision drew renewed criticism yesterday from legislators and an ethnic minority support group.

'The EOC has the responsibility to explain the revised code,' legal-sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said at a meeting of a subcommittee studying the code.

'Is using Chinese and English already the best way? I think the EOC should take the lead in using languages that ethnic minorities understand as well.'

Cyd Ho Sau-lan of Civic Act-up said she would not accept a revised code that did not take minorities into account. 'The EOC did not prepare well. Now, we will have to wait again for the translation. It is a waste of time. We are not going to approve this updated Code of Practice in a rush,' she said.

EOC chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong said there would be no time for a translation if the code was to be implemented in July.

Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the government did not want a delay.

'We hope the code will be implemented in July. Ethnic minority interest groups like Hong Kong Unison supported this updated version as the final version.'

But the group's founder, social worker Fermi Wong Wai-fun, said the government had distorted her opinion. 'It seems to me that Mr Tang, whose tenure as the chairman is going to end next January, does not want to take this job seriously.'

A public hearing on the revised code will be held on June 8.