Equal Opportunities Commission


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Press Releases

Court Rules there is Power to Order Apology


Commenting on the judgment delivered today (5 October 2001) by the Court of Final Appeal in MA Bik Yung v. KO Chuen, Ms. Anna WU, Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said, "The judgment sends out a clear message that harassment or discrimination against a person with disability is not tolerated in our society. The Court of Final Appeal condemned the defendant's conduct towards Ms. MA and commended her for her courage to vindicate herself."

Ms. WU said, "The issue raised by this appeal is of public importance, and it relates to the power of the District Court under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) to order an apology. Today's judgment acknowledges that there is a power to order an apology, even if the defendant is unwilling to apologise. An apology serves to redress the loss and damage suffered by the victim of harassment or discrimination. The Court will have to exercise this power very carefully and only in rare cases, especially if the defendant is unwilling."

Ms. WU continued, "But even in cases where the Court decides not to order an unwilling defendant to apologise, it is likely that the Court will substantially increase the amount of damages the defendant has to pay to the victim. Indeed, in this case, even though there was no appeal on the amount of damages, the Court of Final Appeal indicated that Ms. MA should have been awarded more than the HK$10,000 damages that she has ended up with."

The EOC also sees a public apology in an appropriate case as serving a significant education function, as well as being an effective remedy. The power of the District Court to order an apology will complement and support the process of conciliation conducted by the EOC. It is also used with increased frequency in dealing with discrimination matters elsewhere in the world. One of the social purposes behind the DDO is to encourage conciliation between parties to a dispute and an apology is an effective tool to conciliation.

Today's judgment lends support to the use of an apology as a tool for conciliation. The Court clearly indicated its judicial view that damages would be increased where an apology was not given.

The Court of Final Appeal stated that, through the work of the EOC and by providing legal redress for aggrieved persons, the legislation seeks to eliminate discrimination and to change the prejudicial attitudes that may exist in society. This case heralds another victory for the EOC.

Enquiry: EOC Hotline          25118211