The EOC Reports on Work Plans and Progress
Members of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) met on 17 March 2016 (Thursday) at the 113th EOC Meeting and discussed various matters related to the Commission’s business, including the latest work progress of the EOC’s strategic priorities.
Briefing Members on the work progress of the Commission, Dr. York CHOW, Chairperson of the EOC said that the EOC had a robust start of the year, with the release of the findings of its two major studies in January 2016, namely the “Exploratory Study on Age Discrimination in Employment” and “Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status”.
“Both of these studies showed public opinion in favour of legislation to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of age, and on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, which according to the studies, is a common occurrence in Hong Kong without protection from any specific anti-discrimination legislation at the moment,” said Dr. Chow. “They served to provide evidence-based foundation for the Government and related parties to consider legislation and other measures for addressing the issues, and advancing the equality protection in Hong Kong. They also served as awareness-raising and educational tools with the extensive media and public attention attracted, helping to stimulate greater discussion and understanding of the issues in society.”
“The reports have indeed drawn strong interest and positive response from various stakeholder groups. We are especially pleased that the Chief Justice of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin mentioned the report of the Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status at her ‘Equality and the Law’ lecture at The University of Hong Kong earlier this week, and noted the important change in public attitudes on legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBTI people,” said Dr. Chow.
“Our next major initiative in the pipeline is announcing the results of the Discrimination Law Review, which seeks to simplify, harmonise and modernise the anti-discrimination ordinances in light of the changing needs and demands of society,” continued Dr. Chow. “We are about to publish the report on the public responses, and the EOC’s submission on legislative reforms to the Government, having examined comprehensively the issues involved, and obtained the majority endorsement of Board Members.”
“The release will indeed be especially timely, as it will tie in with the 20th anniversary of the implementation of Hong Kong’s first anti-discrimination ordinance – the Sex Discrimination Ordinance – and the establishment of the EOC, which provides an opportunity to reflect on how our anti-discrimination legislation has fulfilled its purpose through the last two decades,” Dr. Chow added.
“In formulating our recommendations on legislative reforms and other measures, and the prioritisation of the issues, we have carefully considered an expansive list of factors, including the EOC’s operational experience, the evidence and seriousness of discrimination, the human rights obligations of Hong Kong, and the local and international policy and legislative developments,” Dr. Chow explained. “We have also thoroughly analysed the wide variety of views expressed from diverse groups of stakeholders and the general public, as well as their reasoning.”
“We believe that the reports will provide the necessary evidence, data, analyses and tools for enhancing our city’s equality framework. Our recommendations, which cover a wide range of discriminatory issues in different domains and areas, not only aim to close the gaps in the existing legislation and provide redress to individuals, but also seek to address the systemic inequality and encourage institutional change in our society. They are meant to ensure that the vulnerable groups in our society, including women, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities, and indeed everyone can participate equally in everyday life,” said Dr. Chow.
At the meeting, EOC Members also reviewed the work of the Commission in 2015, and discussed the 2016/17 work plan of the EOC’s Ethnic Minority Unit, which was formed in 2015 to promote racial integration and foster equal opportunities and non-discrimination of ethnic minorities. Members noted that the Unit will continue to monitor the Chinese language-learning support measures provided by the Government for non-Chinese speaking students in 2016/17. Efforts will particularly be made to promote fair admission and integration in schools, such as by publishing a booklet on the application of the Race Discrimination Ordinance in the school setting. In terms of employment, the Unit will step up liaison with the Labour Department, Employees Retraining Board, Vocational Training Council and related parties on the development of employment services and vocational training for addressing the needs of ethnic minorities.
Meanwhile, the Unit will continue to arrange training for different sectors through collaboration with Government departments, regulatory bodies and industry associations. These training courses aim to enhance the cultural sensitivity of the frontline staff and encourage the enterprises to adopt more inclusive policies. In 2015, the Unit already conducted training for the banking and real estate sectors, with positive responses received. As for the general public, the Unit has made plans to conduct roving exhibitions and partnership projects so as to raise awareness on the importance of racial equality and integration among both the ethnic minority and the larger community.
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Equal Opportunities Commission
17 March 2016