Dr York Chow pledges to protect gay rights
The new chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission has promised to make legislation to protect gay rights a top priority during his three-year term, which begins today.
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, former secretary for food and health, added that the issue should be handled discreetly.
"In the process of legislation, there should be more discussion. Because not everyone would be courageous enough or would choose to disclose their own sexual orientation," said Chow in an interview with Radio Television Hong Kong.
"It will be difficult for us to collect information on such an issue. But if we conduct more consultations, including [some] in private, I believe more information could be collected," he added.
Chow also said he believed the commission would be a good platform for such consultations.
His remarks were in response to doubts raised by rights groups over whether his religious background would affect the commission's defence of gay rights.
A devoted Christian, Chow, 66, today succeeds Lam Woon-kwong who decided not to seek another term to avoid a possible conflict of interest after being appointed as the convenor of the government cabinet last year.
The former health minister had been vague on the issue of gay rights when his appointment was announced early last month, saying it was too early to define any possible legal protection for sexual minorities.
His stance drew criticism but Chow defended himself in an interview with the South China Morning Post, saying he was a "liberal-minded" Christian and would not be prejudiced against gay people.
Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, welcomed Chow's pledge to take the initiative to push for anti-discrimination legislation that would protect people of different sexual orientations.
"We hope the future legislation will be up to the international standard and that the consultation would be able to include the different voices of society," said Law.
In the RTHK interview, Chow also criticised the government for failing to do enough to meet the education needs of ethnic minority children in Hong Kong.
Unison, which campaigns for ethnic minority rights, has threatened to seek a judicial review of the Bill of Rights to pressure the government to review its policy.
Chow said taking legal action should be the last resort.
He also said he would try to meet different concern groups in the coming two months in order to work out his plan for the next three years.