The government was accused by legislators yesterday of backtracking on the establishment of an independent human rights commission for Hong Kong. Previously, Home Affairs Bureau officials had indicated an 'open mind' on the issue but in their response to the United Nations human rights committee, officials said there was no need for such a body and 'no plans or timetable' to set one up. The Legislative Council panel on home affairs heard from more than a dozen rights groups on issues such as the rights of asylum seekers, universal suffrage and domestic violence. Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai also expressed concerns about the delay in bringing the anti-racism bill to Legco. 'You told the UN it would be within this legislative session [ending in July], but now you are saying it will be within this year,' he said. 'I cannot have much faith in this.' Referring to the imminent replacement of Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher, Mr Law asked if Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan had had any complaints from the business community on the bill. Mr Fisher's disclosure in January that the anti-racism bill would put curbs on expatriate packages brought strong criticism from the business community. 'Mr Fisher follows the government stance but is very conscientious,' Mr Law said. 'He reached out to people in the community ... but was severely attacked and may have to leave the bureau.' Mr Fisher, who has been with the bureau for four years, is expected to move to the post of secretary to the commission on poverty under a reshuffle tipped soon. Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would be irresponsible if it did not carefully consider the law before bringing it to Legco. She vowed to resist broad exceptions to the bill, saying 'any anti-discrimination bill should not have too many'. Lawmakers and rights groups also urged the government to ensure the National People's Congress Standing Committee abided by Hong Kong's international rights obligations in any future interpretations of the Basic Law. Outside Legco, protesters from the Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities urged the government to have the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women apply to the territory. The protocol would allow any citizen to file complaints on women's rights violations directly to the United Nations. Chung Yuen-yi, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said it would help in holding the government accountable if 'anyone could file claims to Cedaw ... and the UN may launch formal inquiries'. 'We've been complaining for 20 years,' Ms Chung said. 'Government oversight is the major cause for many [women's] deaths.'