Hong Kong's Equality Watchdog Is Fighting Against a Drink Promotion—And You Won't Believe Why
In a surprising twist, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) won an interlocutory judgment against a karaoke bar for hosting a ladies’ night last week, on the grounds that it is discriminatory to men.
The claimant, represented by lawyers from the EOC, accused Legends Club in Mong Kok of sexual discrimination, because men had to pay more for drinks. The EOC had an easy victory—Legends failed to send a representative to court on April 13. The claimant is now seeking damages for emotional distress, the amount of which is yet to be determined.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, laughs off the courtroom farce: “The lawsuit itself is ridiculous, the court’s ruling even more so.”
He points out that ladies’ night is nothing more than a marketing strategy, widely adopted in developed countries, and that it’s not meant to discriminate against anyone. “According to the EOC’s logic, restaurants offering discounts to senior citizens should be guilty of discriminating against the young, and gay bars against heterosexuals. What kind of nonsense is this?”
Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who represents the catering industry in the Legislative Council, says the EOC has wasted public money on the case against ladies’ night. “The EOC has stepped out of line this time,” he says.
The EOC came under fire just last month when its new chairman, Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, referred to homosexuals as lo tung, a Cantonese slang term that roughly translates to “druggies.” It was also revealed this month that Chan moonlit as a doctoral thesis supervisor at a second school during his tenure at Lingnan University in 2013, which is strictly prohibited. When speaking to media, Chan claimed his memory of the time is “fuzzy.”
Last year, the EOC was widely criticized when the rent it paid for a new office in Quarry Bay's Cityplaza 4 was made public—at $1.2 million per year. The office accommodates just 12 staff.
Simon Wong says it's likely that Legends will stump up a hefty payout rather than let anything else unfold in court—and he fears a ripple effect.
“This doesn’t simply strike a blow on one bar—it will leave a mark on the industry as a whole. Some bars may even feel intimidated to cancel ladies’ night,” Wong says.