Behave like gentlemen, equality chief York Chow tells Occupy Central activists

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 10:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 10:13pm

Wait and see. That's what the head of the Equal Opportunities Commission recommends democracy advocates do: ease off on organising protests and await the government's blueprint for constitutional and political change.

"I don't believe in threats," says Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, the former health minister who took over at the equalities watchdog in April. "To say that if you don't do this, I'll do that - these are not actions of a gentleman."

I don't believe in threats. To say that if you don't do this, I'll do that - these are not actions of a gentleman
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok

Chow was speaking specifically about Occupy Central, which plans non-violent civil disobedience next summer if the government fails to come up with an acceptable framework for the introduction of universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

He says he has not studied the various positions of the different parties involved, but that if the group's leaders want constitutional reform, a reform proposal needs to be outlined before it carries out its threat to shut down Central by rallying 10,000 supporters to blockade the streets.

"There's no need to do any posturing so soon," he says. "But if the proposed plan turns out to be outrageous, of course we'd need to think of what we need to do to express our opinions."

Chow was secretary for food and health for eight years before taking up the rights post. He says that despite his long tenure in government, he has never been a political person.

"I don't make decisions based on political reasons," he says. "I have certain beliefs and social ethics which I follow and base my decisions on." Chow is a Christian who takes a "liberal" approach to his religion.

Chow says that basing decisions solely on public opinion and emotion is not correct.

"It's not always the majority trumping the minority," he says. pointing to the complaints of sexual and ethnic minority groups. "These are problems of equality, and not majority vote."

Chow says the commission's focus will be to advocate the rights of ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as the disabled, for the next few years. "I'd like to make the commission's work more transparent," he says. "It's good to get more suggestions and feedback from stakeholders."

After all, Chow says, Hong Kong is a human rights leader in Asia, with strong laws protecting rights of speech and assembly, as well as broad media protections.

With his background and previous connections, Chow says communication with the government has become easier. But he knows the government's limitations and understands when to push and when to wait.

"[Government officials] know who I am and what my character is like," he says. "But problems cannot be solved by personal relationships."