Meeting of Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs
Speech by Dr York Chow, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)
The following is an English translation of the Chinese speech delivered by Dr York CHOW at the meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs on 23 April 2014.
Chairman (Hon TAM Yiu-chung, GBS, JP); Deputy Chairman (Hon Paul TSE Wai-chun, JP); Members,
It is my pleasure to be here to update you on the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission, including our progress, new initiatives and major challenges.
Through our work, the EOC aims to effect changes in society by mainstreaming the value of equal opportunity. That is to say, it would form the foundation of policies, and a comprehensive assessment needs would be conducted when a new policy is introduced or amendments made to examine the impact of such changes on social justice and equality.
Such changes, of course, require continuous and sustained efforts and support from all stakeholders, including the government, legislators and district council members, social leaders, NGOs, and individual community members. Over the last 17 years of the EOC’s existence, we have seen that much progress has been made. Both people and organizations are increasingly accepting equal opportunity values and more supportive of the work of the EOC. Policies, procedures and practices are revised to take into account statutory requirements and, in many instances, much has been done to go beyond mere compliance to actually promote equal opportunities. This is exactly where our society should be heading: to proactively advance equality, and not just be complacent with non-violation of the law. Certainly, we believe that the EOC’s public education efforts in this area over the years have had a positive influence. We will continue to be proactive and will discuss new social issues confronting society with our stakeholders.
As such, in order to safeguard our inclusive society, the EOC has all along diligently monitored major issues relating to equal opportunities. Among our advocacy work, we are concerned about issues beyond our existing mandate under the four pieces of anti-discrimination legislation. And the law also stipulates that the EOC may do all things that are necessary for or conducive to the better performance of its functions. In this respect, in addition to administering the existing anti-discrimination legislation, we have actively conducted studies and analyses on various equality issues, such as the recently proposed Marriage (Amendment) Bill and its potential impact on transgender persons; specific legal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons from discrimination; possible discrimination against mainlanders and new migrants; and on age discrimination.
In an effort to begin to address these issues, we shall be conducting studies related to LGBTIs issues and age discrimination in the near future. Additionally, as part of the overall Discrimination Law Review, we shall also consider issues related to mainlanders and new migrants, including seeking the public’s views. The Law Review aims to give consideration to modernising and consolidating the anti-discrimination legislation to strengthen protections under the law.
The above are some of the EOC’s new initiatives. They have been formulated after consulting the EOC Board and our major stakeholders.
As Members can see, there is considerable work being planned and undertaken by the EOC. However, the EOC is only a small establishment with about 90 staff members. There is a clear need for more funding in order to increase our manpower to undertake planned programmes and activities, which are detailed in the Panel Paper alongside the EOC’s work progress and new initiatives.
As stated in the Panel Paper, the EOC is facing severe financial constraint due to office rental increase. As a publicly subvented organization, the EOC is committed to ensuring prudent and conservative management of its funds. Yet the office rental rate has risen significantly due to market conditions outside the EOC’s control, and we have been tapping into our reserve funds to make up for the rental shortfall. This has placed a substantial financial burden on the Commission which impacts our ability to effectively carry out our work. We hope that the esteemed members of the Panel will support the Commission in our bid for a permanent premise, which is the most preferred solution over the long term. In the meantime, I urge you to also lend your backing to the provision of additional recurrent resources by the Government to fund the projected rent shortfall.
Last but not the least, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks for the hard work of our staff members, the guidance of the EOC Board, and the unrelenting support of our legislators and stakeholders – without which, the EOC’s progress and achievements would not be possible.
Equal Opportunities Commission
23 April 2014