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More delays looming on expat package bill

Felix Chan

The anti-racism bill faces further delays, with Home Affairs Department officials meeting the international business community today to discuss proposed tough curbs on expatriate packages.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher told the Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony yesterday that drafting of the bill was nearing completion.

The bill was previously expected to be presented for lawmakers' consideration in March.

Mr Fisher said some chambers of commerce, those from Europe and North America in particular, had recently voiced concerns about provisions in the draft bill on overseas terms of employment. They fear these could hinder their member companies' ability to bring the best available talent to Hong Kong to run their operations.

Companies operating in Hong Kong must justify generous offers of expatriate terms - which can include housing, education and travel allowances - by proving that the recruits have expertise not readily available in Hong Kong. Permanent residents will not receive such special terms.

Local employees in similar posts can file a complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission and seek compensation.

The new hiring criteria will only apply to companies which hire foreign workers after the law comes into effect. Workers already on expatriate packages can continue on the existing terms of employment provided they remain in the same group of companies.

Mr Fisher said after the meeting it was not the government's intention to stop expatriates from gaining permanent residency.

'It is just that if you are a local, why do you want all these benefits? Your children should go to local schools and you don't need to go back to your home every year or every six months - Hong Kong is your home.'