Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong said yesterday he will listen to EOC members' opinions today before deciding whether to resign as the Executive Council's convenor over a possible conflict of interest.
At a special meeting to be held late this afternoon, Lam will make a speech then leave the room to allow members to discuss the matter. They will have the option of voting on whether Lam should keep his Exco position, although such a vote would not be binding, according to commission member Frederick Fung Kin-kee.
Lam's Exco appointment was supported by more than a dozen welfare groups in a joint letter sent to the commission yesterday. As Exco convenor, he could help convey minority groups' voices to the highest level of government, they said.
But Fung, who is also a pan-democrat legislator, believes Lam's role in the top government advisory body undermines the commission's image of independence. Fung said he would resign from the commission if Lam remained with Exco.
The Civic Party, Democratic Party and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee have all urged Lam to choose one position or the other, as soon as possible.
After an hour-long meeting with Fung yesterday, Lam said: 'I am a person with an independent mind. I will first listen to the members' opinions, and make a decision as soon as possible.'
Fung and Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said Lam's Exco appointment contradicts international standards for human rights institutions - the 'Paris Principles' - that require such bodies to be credible and independent from the government.
Last year Lam criticised the Education Bureau for failing to provide sufficient language support to ethnic minorities to help them integrate into society. He said he would consider taking the bureau to court if it could not ensure equal access to good quality education for minorities.
Leong pointed out his concern about this pending issue after Lam accepted the Exco job.
Ip, the former secretary for security, said: 'The job of an Exco member is to assist the government, while the EOC is supposed to be independent. If he takes up both roles, it's possible that the EOC's credibility will be undermined.'
Lam has faced calls to step down from one of the two positions since he was named Exco convenor last week. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said conflicts of interest were unlikely, because there were procedures in place for dealing with situations.