The Equal Opportunities Commission says it would provide a quicker way to resolve disputes if conciliation fails The Equal Opportunities Commission is considering setting up a specialised tribunal to handle discrimination-related cases, its chairman revealed yesterday. Delivering his first speech since being appointed commissioner at the beginning of August, Michael Wong Kin-chow also set out plans for an independent review of the commission's role and greater co-operation with the mainland on anti-discrimination issues. 'The EOC is conducting a review of the three ordinances, which includes a study on establishing an equal opportunities tribunal,' Mr Wong said at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. 'Upon completion of the review, recommendations to amend the legislation will be made to the government and Legislative Council.' Mr Wong said the tribunal would give complainants a quicker, more convenient way to resolve disputes should conciliation fail. A similar tribunal exists in Australia. Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah, of the Civil Human Rights Front, said the group had also raised the idea with Mr Wong at a meeting last month, adding he was impressed by Mr Wong's timely decision. University of Hong Kong law professor and equal opportunities expert Carole Petersen also welcomed the idea, saying it would give complainants more bargaining power. 'Respondents to the complaint would participate in conciliation with more enthusiasm if they know the complainants could take the case to a tribunal,' she said. 'Right now, most respondents know the possibility of the complainant getting legal assistance is low, but once a complainant is given legal assistance by the EOC, respondents are quick to settle.' Professor Petersen said any such tribunal ought to be independent of the EOC and under the judiciary, with the power to refer complex cases to the District Court. Mr Wong, a retired Court of Appeal judge, agreed, saying the tribunal would not even be in the same building as the EOC. 'The most important thing is for it to be independent and credible,' he said. 'There should be no conflict of interest.' Mr Wong also announced the appointment of two advisers, Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu, former deputy director of the Social Welfare Department, and Professor Chow Wing-sun, of HKU, to 'review the organisational structure of the EOC in order to enhance [its] smooth and cost- effective operation'. Mr Wong said the review, expected to take a few months, was important given that the EOC had been in operation for seven years, but said it ought not to lead to cuts in staff or services. A review that was supposed to have been undertaken by the Home Affairs Bureau last year appears to have been abandoned while a law on racial discrimination is being drafted. Mr Wong would not say whether he would like the EOC to take charge of the law once it was enacted, but welcomed it as a step in the right direction for tackling racial discrimination.