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  • Nov 24, 2014
  • Updated: 4:15pm
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Hong Kong may amend its race hate law to protect mainland visitors

Widening the legislation could be an option to protect mainland visitors, says equality chief, after 'anti-locust' protests in Tsim Sha Tsui

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 11:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 9:06am
 

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Hong Kong could extend its anti-discrimination laws to protect mainlanders against abuse, as the debate over the number of visitors to the city becomes increasingly vitriolic.

The chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, said yesterday it was possible to amend race hate laws to cover discrimination against members of the same ethnic group. Chow, a former health minister, said such a move would be difficult but that it was worth considering given the current climate.

Several senior government officials condemned the protest on Sunday that targeted mainland tourists in Tsim Sha Tsui, as animosity reaches new levels in the debate over how many tourists the city can handle.

Under the city's Race Discrimination Ordinance, inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of race or nationality is liable to criminal prosecution. It would not apply to Sunday's incident as mainlanders and Hongkongers are of the same race and nationality.

"We may consider having the law amended to address discrimination within the same ethnic group," Chow said.

"We are in the process of reviewing the anti-discrimination laws, and will factor in the current situation and seek legal advice on how to include clauses to deal with this situation."

No one has been prosecuted under the ordinance since it came into effect in 2009.

Chow said that in 2008, when the ordinance was drafted, the government took the position that mainlanders and Hongkongers should not be differentiated by race and nationality.

Chow described Sunday's "anti-locust" protest, when police had to intervene as 100 people marched from the Star Ferry pier to Canton Road, as "unacceptable".

Slogans such as "Go back to China" and "Reclaim Hong Kong" were chanted, and some protesters shouted abuse at mainlanders. The protesters demanded the government curb tourist numbers to the city. The number of visitors is expected to grow to 100 million a year by 2023.

"Hongkongers have always treasured their freedom to protest and their freedom of speech. But we have to ensure that there is respect. [Hongkongers] cannot infringe upon other's rights," Chow said.

He added that calling mainland tourists "locusts" or other derogatory terms could be considered an act of discrimination.

Chow said legislation should be a last resort. "We should be aiming much higher. Hong Kong is a free and international city."

Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said yesterday the protesters' actions had gone "beyond what is permissible under the law".

"The fact that shops had to stop operating, that customers had to retreat into shops … seems to me that there was a breach of the peace. We are following up with this according to the law and we don't exclude the possibility of making arrests."

A local deputy to the National People's Congress was criticised in an editorial carried by Global Times, a state-run newspaper, for his proposal to limit the number of tourists coming to Hong Kong. It said a proposal by Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party was "selfish and only trying to maximise Hong Kong's interests".

Additional reporting by Tanna Chong and Ernest Kao

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This article is now closed to comments

oxymoron14.
Think carefully, objectively and search your feelings if you must. Who is truly being abused? Mainland tourists or Hongkongers ?
oxymoron14.
All this commotion is just a farce from the bureaucrats as a last ditch effort to amend damaged feelings with the leaders in the motherland. Who would want to get on the bad side of the puppet masters? If this joke does get passed, it would only make sense that people who breaks this law would be expatriates. What will they think of next? A curfew?
ejmciii
They don't see you as compatriots, honger. They see you as a tool to be used and thrown away. Cross the border and you are just as much a foreigner to them as an African, an American or an Eskimo. Either way, it is symptomatic of the greater issue that the Mainland does not see us as equals but as subordinates. What these people did is inappropriate and deserves our scorn as people of HK but squelching their voice just will make it worse.
DinGao
Surely Mainlanders can be considered to be "a class of persons" already covered by the ordinance?
Chapter:
602 PDF Title: Race Discrimination Ordinance Gazette Number: L.N. 166 of 2009
Section: 45 Heading: Vilification Version Date: 10/07/2009
(1) It is unlawful for a person, by any activity in public, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, another person or members of a class of persons on the ground of the race of the person or members of the class of persons.
lexishk
Yes, maechung, aren't they inconsiderate, they should really just lock themselves in a closet on their day off.
.
What you've just shown is, to me, the very worst face of HK people. The locu$t thing pales in comparison.
Sugelanren
Could our unelected officials please stop kowtowing to Beijing and just start looking after their own people!
Understand and address the problem. A change in the law won't do this.
lucifer
This will not happen, because its too ambiguous. Who is a Mainlander? If you lived in Hong Kong since you were 3, are you still a Mainlander? How about a person who came here to go to school and they stayed after getting a job in a local Bank, are they a mainlander? Do you have to have a Mainland issued passport to be a Mainlander? Is protesting the unbearable invasion of tourists from the Mainland, which is making your life miserable considered hatred? There is no way for such a law to be enforced fairly. This is ridiculous.
Dai Muff
It is a solution. A sales tax on ALL would distribute the tax burden more equitably. We are paying tax for facilities people who pay ZERO tax are using.
clivehk
Totally agree with this, and I think it reflects the sentiment of the majority of HK residents.
I think the HK Govt should look to enforce the law equally upon everyone in HK, so when the tour buses are double parked along Salisbury Road, so that the delightful tourists can see some metal stars set in concrete, blocking bus stops, no waiting areas and a whole lane to traffic, it should do something about it.
Simple matters such as the above, cause us to be late for work, appointments and frustrate us. Why should an elderly lady, a young mother and her children have to alight a bus in the middle of the road? Choosing to ignore the things that effect us citizens daily, causes resentment and issues soon come to a head because of it.
Previously on the MTR, passengers were not allowed to bring bulky items on to the train. Now rush hour journeys, you fight not only for space as before, but you have to contend with tourists and their suitcases taking up valuable space.
Basically, as long as the big corporations, the jewellery chains, the hoteliers and the government are profiting from our cross-border visitors, whatever HK citizens choose to say shall fall on deaf ears.
I do find it somewhat amusing, that for decades tourists from all over the world were ripped off in TST camera shops, restaurants, taxis etc.; as soon as a Putonghua voice complains, the government rushes to appease!
SMH2014
It's amazing how you got 2 likes for this absurd comment. Who are the ones shouting racial slurs ??... Are people in HK really this thick-headed ?. Unbelievable... These type of racist behaviors aren't even tolerated in countries like the USA.

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