EOC Organises Public Forum to Enhance Communication with Stakeholders
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) organised a Public Forum today (24 November 2015) to solicit stakeholders’ views and foster better understanding of the public about the EOC’s work.
For the fourth year running, the Public Forum continued to provide a valuable platform for stakeholders to share their views on enhancing the Commission’s work in promoting equal opportunities in Hong Kong.
The Forum was kick-started with remarks by Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC. As part of the Commission’s effort to enhance transparency and accountability, Dr. Chow reviewed the Commission’s performance in the past year, and introduced its future priorities. He was then joined by the Convenors and representatives of the four Committees under the EOC to answer questions from the floor participants. During his presentation, Dr. Chow reviewed the work progress of the five priority work areas of the EOC in the previous year. These included: conducting the discrimination law review; seeking legal protection for sexual minorities from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status; advocating equal education and employment opportunities for ethnic minorities; promoting integrated education for students with special educational needs; urging the adoption of an updated and unified definition of disability in the performance of Government functions; and the continuous implementation of the anti-sexual harassment campaign.
Dr. Chow said, “As we look to our equality landscape for the future, the Commission started by systematically looking at our own operational experience over the last 19 years and identifying areas for improvement in the existing protection extended by the anti-discrimination ordinances. We launched in July 2014 the public consultation on the Discrimination Law Review, which saw broad public interest over the three-month period of consultation, resulting in over 125,000 responses received. We feel strongly that the review is an opportunity to make substantive changes which will better prepare Hong Kong for dealing with the challenges of inequality in the years to come. The Commission is aiming to publish a report on the review in the first quarter of 2016 and to submit a report on the Commission’s recommendations on the law reforms to the Government.”
In May 2014, the EOC commissioned the Gender Research Centre of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct the “Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status”. The Commission is planning to announce the report early next year. On the anti-sexual harassment campaign, significant progress was made in the area through ongoing campaigns targeting a variety of sectors, including education, business, and service provision. A major achievement during the period was the passage in December 2014 of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill, which closed a major loophole in the protection of service providers against sexual harassment by customers, and was indeed a culmination of many years of advocacy by the Commission.
In reviewing the EOC’s past performance, Dr. Chow explained the Commission’s continuous efforts in improving its operational efficiency. During 2014/15, the EOC handled 17,781 enquiries and 716 complaints, 77% of the complaints were employment-related. Broken down by the respective ordinance, 55% of the complaints were on the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), 36% on the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), 5% on the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO), and 4% on the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO). The successful conciliation rate achieved during the year was 64%.
In conclusion, Dr. Chow said, “In recent years, our city has witnessed widening divisiveness due to differences in opinions and persistent misunderstanding. To move forward as a society, what is needed is constructive dialogue grounded in mutual respect. We must, therefore, create platforms and opportunities for inter-sectoral channels of communication and exchanges, in order to collectively arrive at a solution and ensure that no one faces unfair discrimination in our society.”
Another special theme of this year’s forum was the education and employment challenges of ethnic minorities (EM). The session started with a presentation on the EOC’s approach of addressing the EM’s concerns by Mr. Raymond HO, Senior Equal Opportunities Officer (Ethnic Minorities Unit) of the EOC. Representatives from the Government and private sector were invited to share their opinions on the topic. They included Mr. Sheridan LEE, Principal Education Officer (Curriculum Development) from Education Bureau, who reported on the progress of the Bureau’s effort to enhance Chinese learning and teaching of non-Chinese speaking students.
On employment, Ms Catherine LAW, Senior Labour Officer (Employment Services) (Policy) from Labour Department and Ms Eunice CHAN, Assistant Secretary (Appointment) from Civil Service Bureau highlighted the support for EM and employment of EM in the civil service respectively.
In addition, Ms Ivy Poon, Regional Manager – Training and Development of Pacific Coffee Company, shared the company’s experiences of promoting culturally diverse workplace, while Mr. Hans LI, Senior Manager (Business Support Services) from Hospital Authority talked about the support for EM by the Hospital Authority.
The Forum held at The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups Building in Quarry Bay was well received with an attendance of over 300 representatives from NGOs, concern groups, consular corps, business organisations, Government departments, educational institutes, employers’ organisations and unions. The participants exchanged their views enthusiastically at the discussion sessions. The insights shared are helpful to the EOC as the Commission considers how to continuously enhance the performance and accountability to the public, and further the work to promote equal opportunities for all.
For media enquiries, please contact Ms. Natalie Wu at 2106-2124.
Equal Opportunities Commission
24 November 2015