• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:25am
NewsHong Kong

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


  • Yes: 18%
  • No: 82%
21 Feb 2014
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 1,401

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


More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Learn to prioritise, and try harder to put HK back on track.
STOP being too overly procedural - you are distracting yourself and avoiding doing the real work need to save this sinking ship.
Absolutely twisted logic. Blaming the mainlanders for everything is disgraceful and there is no justification for racist behavior. Hk is going down the drain exactly bc of this behavior. No wonder all my expat colleagues are leaving, hk people are getting so twisted with their perspectives. Worst of all, hk people are known for being rude or cold, yet, they have the cheek to look down on mainland people. Singapore will be laughing because hk is **** itself big time.
it is perhaps more than the social ettiquettes. It is the crumbling infrastructure o HK, and the dying attention to education and other ways to upgrade human capital. Overall, there is simply quick erosion of what already exists....with no renewal in sight.
According to many people, HK is simply now a shopping and food destination. That is sad.
Why "Mainland" visitors ? Why not all visitors ? Why only members of the same ethnic group ? Why some types of victim of discrimination warrant protection by law and not others ?
i think the problem about the mainland tourist is that we welcome ppl from all around the world as long as they will not disturb our daily order in every aspect .....to set up a upper limit over the visitors is considerable to me ,,,, coz the fact is hong kong is a small place and could not handle such a large amount of people ..on the level of sources and spaces ......the govern should act fast .....stress and pressure do exerted on hong kong people ....
Discrimination laws do not apply. This has been raised before and the Government's argument has been that racial discrimination laws do not apply to 'discrimination against ethnicity'. This stance involved requests that the Administration address discrimination against lawful Mainland immigrants, many of whom had low social and economical standing. Is the Government now focusing it's attention on protecting tourists but still avoid the obvious grievance that we have too many visitors?
As the Visa free access scheme involves 49 cities - why can't the Government suggest an administrative solution such as splitting these into 2 groups and rotating the right to visas to alternate years? The list could be tweaked to give preference to Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai residents but the rest - if they want to visit then they can wait? This will help to reduce the numbers significantly so that we don't feel swamped! As Government officials appear to be lacking any creating thinking then please turn to the public for sensible suggestions so this problem can be resolved without dividing society further.
I dont see the need to amend the anti-discrimination law, as these protesters have no stance to discriminate anyone. The slogans just show how rude and less-educated they are. Are you protest guys really from so called highly developed Hong Kong? You are humiiating the city! Yell against compatriot whereas bow to 'foreigners', how pathetic you are!
Dai Muff
Foreigners are not the ones affecting our livelihood and our living situation for the worst, but if you don't think HK people are pretty much as rude to every race and ethnicity except themselves you do not listen to HK conversations or even HK radio. It is also not foreigners HK people are expected to bow to these days. We do not even have the right to decide for ourselves how many mainlanders come in.
And I suppose if I feel people from your country is infringing on my interest, Hong Kong should heavily tax you and your countrymen, too? Try not to be a problem, if you cannot come up with a solution.
Good, go ahead and put "dislikes". Nothing is going to change the fact that you are rude and have a distorted sense of reality. None of civilized people in the world agree with this behavior and stop trying to think that you deserve the sympathy because of your plight. Just because you have some reasons for losing your temper doesn't justify you being rude, wake up or all the intellectuals and elites will leave hk.



SCMP.com Account