Public Consultation on Discrimination Law Review
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced today (8 July 2014) the launch of a 3-month public consultation on the Discrimination Law Review (DLR) from 8 July to 7 October 2014.
At a press conference to launch the consultation, Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC, said, “Under the current Discrimination Ordinances, the EOC has a statutory duty to review the effectiveness of the existing anti-discrimination laws and make recommendations for reform where appropriate.”
Dr. CHOW explained, “Over the past 18 years, since the EOC’s establishment, the Hong Kong society has evolved significantly and members of the public now have better understanding of equality issues and higher expectations for equal rights and opportunities. The EOC’s operational experience has also indicated that there are gaps with the current anti-discrimination laws, whereby people in Hong Kong continue to face discrimination in relation to sex, pregnancy, disability and race, etc. The EOC has a responsibility to ensure that the laws effectively protect them from discrimination.”
“Aiming to modernize and harmonize the local anti-discrimination laws, the EOC undertook a comprehensive review of the legislation in light of the last 18 years of experience in Hong Kong as well as international developments. This review is to ensure that the domestic legislation continues to be effective in protecting equality rights as guaranteed under the Basic Law and relevant international covenants,” Dr. CHOW added.
Over the past year, the EOC has met with a wide range of stakeholders and their feedback generally indicated that it is an appropriate time to consider changes in the anti-discrimination laws. There are stakeholders anticipating simplification and consolidation of the existing laws into a single ordinance with strengthened protection on existing grounds.
Dr. CHOW remarked, “The EOC thinks that the discrimination laws should be simplified and made consistent where possible. Combining all four discrimination laws into one would make it easier to understand and apply. This is also in line with the international trend for effective protection from discrimination and promotion of equality.”
In presenting an overview of the DLR, Mr. Herman POON, Chief Legal Counsel of the EOC, highlighted some of the important issues and possible changes to be considered in the public consultation document.
“The EOC’s DLR examines all the elements of the anti-discrimination laws. These include which groups of people are protected from discrimination; the different forms of prohibited conduct; and the fields in which discrimination is prohibited,” Mr. POON said.
He pointed out, “For instance, we would like to know whether the public think that protection for sexual harassment should be extended, for example, to workers employed by different employers working in a common workplace. At present, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance gives protection from sexual harassment by fellow employees, but not by workers employed by other employers in a common workplace. As it is now common for workers employed by different employers to work in the same workplace, it is important to consider extending the law.”
“We would like to know whether members of the public think the law should protect people from discrimination because of nationality, citizenship, Hong Kong residency or related status, which the existing Race Discrimination Ordinance does not cover. This new proposal could hopefully provide better legal protection to new immigrants and tourists against discrimination,” Mr. POON highlighted.
“Another important issue that the EOC looks at is whether a statutory duty or requirement should be introduced to provide reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, which the current Disability Discrimination Ordinance does not make explicit. This duty would help persons with disabilities to better participate in all areas of life such as employment, education and accessing services,” explained Mr. POON.
The DLR public consultation document is being widely distributed to stakeholders, employers’ federations, employees’ groups, rehabilitation organizations, women’s groups, concern groups and public organizations for comments. Public consultation meetings will be organized from July to August 2014 to help the public understand the issues and make their comments. There will also be separate sessions with minority language interpretation for the ethnic minority communities.
The consultation document will be published in eight languages, namely Chinese, English, Urdu, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai, Hindi and Indonesian. Members of the public can obtain copies of the document from the Public Enquiry Service Centres of the Home Affairs Department, the Equal Opportunities Commission and its website at http://www.eoc.org.hk/eoc. An easy-read guide to the consultation document which summarizes some of the important issues of the DLR has also been prepared to ensure that the largest number of people will be able to understand its content.
In conclusion, Dr. CHOW encouraged the public to respond to the consultation and provide their views in writing to the EOC. He said, “The EOC looks forward to receiving views from members of the public, which will help us in making recommendations to the Government that could improve the discrimination laws in Hong Kong and promote equality for everyone in our society.”
For media enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.
Equal Opportunities Commission
8 July 2014