Richland Gardens Case Settled out of Court
After commencing legal proceedings in November last year on behalf of five Plaintiffs associated with the Kowloon Bay Health Centre (the Centre), the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has successfully negotiated an out of court settlement on their behalf. As part of the settlement, written apologies have been obtained from two defendants who are residents of Richland Gardens.
Commenting on the settlement, Ms. Anna WU, Chairperson of the EOC said, "We welcome the successful outcome and praise the Plaintiffs for their courage in speaking up against the treatment they received. It is important that persons who are treated unlawfully, whether because they have a disability or are associated with persons with a disability, should be able to seek redress when they have been discriminated against or harassed. These incidents highlight the need for a body such as the EOC, as persons associated with stigmatised disabilities are vulnerable when it comes to public disclosure."
Ms. WU clarified that the EOC did not take legal action in this case lightly. "We will always attempt to conciliate complaints via our dispute resolution mechanism first. It is only when that doesn't work, or when a defendant does not wish to conciliate the dispute, and the complainant asks for legal assistance, that we will consider commencing legal proceedings on behalf of a complainant. In cases such as this, where important principles of law invoking the public interest are involved, the EOC will take all steps that are necessary to ensure compliance with the law."
Ms. WU pointed out that the efforts of the EOC and its officers in dealing with the disputes after the Centre was opened in May 1999 have been considerable. "As the acts complained of became more severe and targeted at the Centre and its users," she said, "the EOC set up a temporary office in the Centre to assist aggrieved persons, issued 10,000 letters to residents of Richland Gardens and neighbouring estates to explain the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), also contacted various service organisations to explain the provisions of the DDO, arranged a number of public education programmes in the neighbourhood to advise persons of their rights to complain to the EOC, and commenced its own inquiry into the matters in September 1999."
"Furthermore", concluded Ms. WU, "last year the EOC successfully conciliated the complaints against four government departments in respect the erection of an illegal structure outside Richland Gardens and the erection of banners vilifying persons with AIDS. We are pleased that all our hard work has paid off. The community is now more aware than ever before that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated."
Enquiry: EOC Hotline 25118211