• Tue
  • Sep 2, 2014
  • Updated: 2:12pm
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: 1,400

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

For people who put
"Dislike", you are so twisted and a bunch of losers.
The law is neccessary before they drag the rest of us into the mud........Yup, i agree, "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.
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.
I call you a liar. I don't think you have ever been to any Chinese cities or towns.
The Police seemed to have sufficient powers to control the protesters as the article does quote him as saying there is a disturbance of peace. Cantonese spoken in HK is known to be "rude". If there is a rude way to describe something or some one, there will be plenty of people using it as it is part of the humour in HK. So how do you police it ... does it only apply during public demonstrations only or day to day usage?
I think it is time for more civic education in HK
I do not disagree with you especially on education, artdig18, but does the police have any power to prevent Hong Kong's reputation from being tarnished?
Clear eye with 100% hindsight, yes the police in this case could have arrested the protesters for their slogans and chants ... on the basis of existing laws see Din Gao below, and also when the protesters were disturbing the peace. But the headlines may then be police crack down on free speech etc. So HK's reputation would be damaged maybe in either case. It does not mean that nothing should be done. So I think the Police Commisioner is saying the right words on prosecuting those that committed an offence. This should be done as the Police needs to uphold the law. But sadly it is the application of law that our Govt is not good.
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 is that mainland visitors are NOT protected by the law currently while other ethnic group are already covered by the law... So you should really asking why other ethnic groups? why not mainlanders?




SCMP.com Account