Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 229


Let’s get the law right while fighting COVID-19

In response to media enquiries about whether recent online comments about a police officer infected by COVID-19 violate the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), the EOC released a statement on 25 February 2020 to explain what constitutes disability vilification under the DDO.

The DDO defines vilification as any activity in public that incites hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule towards another person with a disability (PWD) or members of a class of PWDs. It may be unlawful, for instance, for a person to say openly in public that people with a certain disability are a useless burden, and should be banished from society.

Furthermore, the DDO provides that when the act concerned is intentional and consists of threatening physical harm, or inciting others to threaten physical harm, towards a PWD or members of a class of PWDs, or towards the premises or property of the said PWD(s), it amounts to an offence of serious vilification.

While it is highly inappropriate to ride on COVID-19-related incidents and curse or gloat over the misfortune of individuals of a particular profession, these remarks generally do not constitute disability vilification nor serious vilification as they cannot be reasonably interpreted as inciting hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule towards COVID-19 patients and other PWDs, let alone threatening physical harm towards them, their premises or property, or inciting others to make such a threat. Nonetheless, the EOC calls on the public to refrain from making these comments, which only serve to inflame social tensions rather than helping the city overcome the epidemic.

It should be noted that the EOC’s explanation on the law did not amount to comments or conclusions about individual cases, and should not be construed as such. Any person who has been, or believes that she or he has been, subject to disability discrimination, vilification or serious vilification is welcome to contact the Commission directly to lodge an enquiry or complaint. The EOC will endeavour to offer assistance as appropriate and needed.

To further promote knowledge of the anti-discrimination ordinances, as well as the message of solidarity and inclusion, Mr Ricky CHU, EOC Chairperson contributed articles to Stand News, Hong Kong Free Press, South China Morning Post and EJ Insights last month, addressing hot issues amid the coronavirus outbreak, from restaurants turning away Putonghua-speaking customers to residents protesting against the setting up of quarantine centres in their neighbourhoods. Click the links below to read the articles.