Legislators are not giving up the fight for a law to protect newly arrived mainland migrants against discrimination in Hong Kong.
The government yesterday acknowledged that migrants regularly face discrimination, but ruled out including them in its racial discrimination bill, which is expected to be presented to the Legislative Council in June or July. Acting Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher said it would not be possible to include mainlanders in the ordinance 'because we are all Chinese'.
The proposed Racial Discrimination Ordinance will render 'discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of race unlawful', and will extend the jurisdiction of the Equal Opportunities Commission to include discrimination on racial grounds. It will cover the fields of employment, education, goods and services, public bodies and clubs, and barristers. Employers of fewer than five people will get a three-year grace period to comply.
Exemptions are also being made for dramatic performances and other fields where the ethnicity of an individual is relevant for purposes of authenticity.
Others exempt from the law will be landlords who share small dwellings with lodgers or tenants, voluntary bodies, certain charities, religious jobs and immigration legislation.
Existing employment arrangements on overseas terms will also fall outside the scope of the proposed law.
Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, of the Article 45 Concern Group, asked the government to extend the ambit of the draft legislation to cover new Chinese arrivals in Hong Kong.
Criticising the scope of the definitions laid out in the bill, she told Mr Fisher at yesterday's home affairs panel meeting: 'Legislation is a tool to help us, not to limit us.'
Mr Fisher said the government would consider public consultation on the issue of introducing legislation to protect new arrivals from discrimination.
Legislators at the meeting also criticised government officials for failing to set up a children's commission or draw up a definitive policy on child issues, as recommended by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
They said children's forums and occasional visits to schools by government officials did not address the issues raised by the UN.
Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who represents the social welfare sector, described the government's attitude to the UN recommendations as 'informal and casual'.
Mr Fisher defended the government's stance, saying it would take some time to co-ordinate the various bureaus involved, but could not give legislators a time frame for setting up a children's commission or an independent body to monitor children's rights.
He suggested the Office of the Ombudsman deal with the rights of children in the interim.