Equal Opportunities Commission

Services asked to relax entry rules for minorities

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2011, 12:00am

The Immigration and Customs Departments could follow the lead of the police and the prison service by opening their doors to ethnic minorities, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Growing demands being placed on the disciplined services by minority groups meant these services should revise their recruitment policies, EOC chairman Lam Woon-kwong said yesterday.

The Police and the Correctional Services Department recently relaxed its language requirements, making Chinese less important in entry examinations for certain ranks.

'I hope other forces such as Immigration, or even Customs can make reference to such practices, because their work will require communication with ethnic minorities,' Lam said.

'These people may excel in other aspects, but if you insist they compete in Chinese, they will lose out in the Chinese tests. It will be a lose-lose situation for them and for Hong Kong.'

In August the Correctional Services Department replaced its written Chinese test with a group interview for some positions, while the police added a rule that favours applicants who speak and write foreign languages other than English.

Lam said he had written to Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung in recent months to urge such changes. 'I think this is a positive reaction,' he said.

The inability to read or write Chinese well has long been a barrier to hiring minorities in the seven disciplined services, as Chinese has been a key test for officers. Concern groups say the new rules can better engage ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, the commission announced a 41 per cent increase in the number of cases of suspected discrimination. There were 4,582 specific inquiries in the first six months of this year, up from 3,253 in the same period last year.

Lam attributed the rise to increased public awareness. 'When these cases come to the EOC, there are people who have accumulated grievances. It is reasonable to say this is the tip of an iceberg,' he said. 'Increased publicity for our programme may be why the number rose.'

The number of official complaints for the first six months of this year, nonetheless, remained stable at 432, compared with 444 for the same period last year.