Time to move on EOC chairmaneditorial

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2010, 12:00am

Discrimination is a serious matter. The work of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is obviously important. But there are questions about the government's commitment to it given how slow it has been in finding a new chairman for the body.

Raymond Tang Yee-bong's term ended yesterday without the government having named his successor. There has been no shortage of suitable candidates. When applications closed in September, 44 had been received. An executive search firm identified a further 49 qualified people.

Critics claim the authorities are stalling because they want to find a government-friendly chairman. With the five-member selection panel comprising present and former executive councillors, it is easy to conclude that this could be the case.

We hope that it is not so. The head of the commission has to be impartial. A good number of the cases it handles every year are brought against authorities.

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 obviously need to be careful who is appointed next time. But it is not their business to further delay appointing a chairman when it seems that qualified candidates have been available for months.

This is an edited version of the Leader column published in yesterday's South China Morning Post