Equal Opportunities Commission

EOC looks to combining equal rights laws

Outgoing EOC chairman wants to combine all four of the city's anti-discrimination ordinances to pave a smoother path for new ones in future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 5:44am

The Equal Opportunities Commission will complete by this year the drafting of a consultation document to review the four anti-discrimination laws, so that a public consultation into the matter can be launched next year.

Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong made the announcement after his last - and coincidentally 100th - meeting with members of the commission yesterday.

Former health secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngor will take over his role next month.

Lam said the four ordinances had been drafted 18 years ago based on those in Britain and Australia. But while these two countries had improved on them over the past two decades, Hong Kong has lagged behind by at least 10 years, he said.

"The aim of the review is to modernise the existing four ordinances," Lam said, referring to the sex, disability, family status and race discrimination ordinances.

"If we combine the four ordinances into one main ordinance … this will be more flexible."

Doing so would make it easier and faster to introduce new anti-discrimination laws, as all that would be required then would be an amendment to the main ordinance instead of having to put forward a new and separate law, Lam explained.

"In the past, the government always said that the amendments we suggested were too trivial and so they could not be presented to the Legislative Council," he said, adding that the amendments presented in Legco had to go through a priority-based selection process.

"So now we are hoping to make the changes all together. The government cannot say the changes are trivial any more."

Lam hopes the commission will be able to submit a proposal to the government within two years, after listening to public opinion.

When asked whether the proposal would discuss introducing the controversial anti-sexual orientation discrimination law, he said the review would focus on improving the four existing laws.

He believed the public would voice their opinions on sexual orientation discrimination during the public consultation.

But whether such views would eventually be included in the commission's proposal to the government was out of his control as he would no longer be chairman then, he said.

Lam praised his successor Chow as being highly experienced in the public service sector. He also applauded Chow for supporting the underprivileged on many occasions.

Lam called his work at the commission the happiest and most meaningful time of his 40 years in the public service sector.