Protesters prepared for a fight

ORGANISERS of the newly-formed Movement Against Discrimination (MAD) are ready for a fight when they stage their first public function at Morse Park in Wong Tai Sin tomorrow.

The co-convenor of MAD, Mr John Tse, said: ''We are prepared for a fight if that's what the other side wants. We don't mind being a little more aggressive when advocating the rights of the disabled. We won't like it, but we'll do what is needed.'' The public rally against discrimination of the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill and all disabled groups is expected to draw a crowd of at least 1,000.

It will be held at an open-air theatre opposite the Tung Tau housing estate where residents have resorted to violence to prevent a hostel for the mentally handicapped being built on their doorstep.

The residents last night repeated their determination to keep the mentally handicapped out.

Their spokesman, Mr Wong Kwok-keung, said: ''We don't want radical action, but we are determined to show the Government we don't want the mentally handicapped here.'' Their two-day plan of action against the MAD rally begins today, when residents intend to plaster MTR stations with strongly-worded slogans.

Mr Wong said: ''Some of the big character posters will name and accuse members of the United Democrats of siding with the mentally handicapped against us.

''We do not accept the decision to house the mentally handicapped here. We want to show them we don't want them here. We want them removed. I want to send this message to the Government.'' The residents say they have arranged for a van covered in slogans to patrol the rally site tomorrow.

Another resident representative, Mr Wong Wing-kei, said residents would be out in force with the van to ''protest against the wrong accusation that we are discriminatory''. ''We have never ever discriminated against anyone. We just don't want the hostel for the mentally handicapped built in our neighbourhood.'' Mr Tse, a senior lecturer at the City Polytechnic, said MAD was formed in response to the recent discrimination suffered by the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill.

He described as underhanded the way residents of Tung Tau Estate had used their children to protest against the proposed hostel.

''The final straw was the attempt to keep the mentally handicapped out of the Cityone Plaza in Sha Tin. That was inhumane.'' He raised the issue with students, who gave up their lunchtime and packed the lecture hall to discuss the matter. The determination that something had to be done to change the behaviour of the public gave birth to MAD.

Mr Tse believes the time for the Government's ''softly, softly'' approach has passed.

He said the official approach up to this point had been one of ''crisis intervention''.

''Until we get matters like this included in the school curriculum, we're never going to get anywhere. What is the use of stupid APIs [announcements of public interest] at 3 am? Who sees them? ''What we want is for the Government to take the initiative in the fight against discrimination. There's lots of work needed, just educating government officials on the matter,'' he said.

Mr Tse said they deliberately included the word ''discrimination'' in their name because people in Hongkong were afraid of the word. They associated it with South Africa.

Since MAD was formed it has received many letters saying people are afraid and even biased, but did not practise discrimination, he said.