End this delay over the next EOC chief

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2010, 12:00am

Discrimination is not a matter Hong Kong should take lightly; it's both an issue of justice and fairness as well as critical for society to peacefully grow and thrive. The work of the Equal Opportunities Commission is, therefore, unquestionably important. But where is the government's commitment to upholding such basic rights, given its lethargy in finding a new chairman for the statutory body?

Raymond Tang Yee-bong's term ended yesterday without the government having named his successor. It has had plenty of time to make the appointment, and there has been no shortage of suitable candidates. When applications closed in September, 44 had been received, while an executive search firm identified another 49 qualified people. That the five-member selection panel comprises present and former executive councillors would seem to lend weight to accusations that authorities want a government-friendly chairman - and have so far been unable to find one.

We hope that this is not the case. It is in no one's interest - especially the government's - that the head of the commission is anything but impartial. A good number of the cases handled each year are brought against authorities. Independence is essential for its effective operation.

The commission is grounded in equal opportunity for all. Yet it is unclear whether this was part of the selection process for its chairman. There is a lack of transparency in how the choice is made. Only the committee of the government's top body makes the choice and it does so without the commission's board having a say.

Tang's term was marked by allegations of misuse of funds. His predecessor, Exco non-official member Anna Wu Hung-yuk, had a rocky relationship with the government during her time in office. Authorities rightfully should pick someone with an unblemished background who would not bring the commission into disrepute. But it is not their business to further delay appointing a chairman when it seems that an ample number of people with the right credentials have been available for months.