Equal Opportunities Commission



Pride Asia-Pacific Launch
Organised by HSBC

Sharing by Mr LAM Woon-kwong, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission



We were set up by statute, since 1996, to enforce four pieces of anti-discrimination legislation:
1. Sex Discrimination Ordinance
2. Family Status Discrimination Ordinance
3. Disability Discrimination Ordinance
4. Race Discrimination Ordinance

We are funded by Government but we operate independently of Government.

The Chairperson was appointed, after an open recruitment process, by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CE). He/she doubles as both the governing board's Chairperson and the CEO of the EOC Office. The other 16 Members of the governing board were all appointed by the CE.

We are a human rights agency with defined statutory power to eliminate discrimination through investigation of complaints, through conciliation, and where necessary and pursuable, through litigation in the Civil Court.

In addition to law enforcement, we place equal, if not more, emphasis on public education, training and advocacy, on equal opportunity values and policies.


The core value that underlies all of our work is the respect for individuals as fellow human beings. We tend to discriminate when we look down upon others, be it because of their gender, their disabilities, their family status, their ethnicity, their age, their religion, or their sexual orientation.

We have been advocating for legislation to protect the social and employment rights of the LGBT community because:

  1. They do suffer both conscious and sub-conscious discrimination, in the workplace and in their daily lives;
  2. They get stereotyped socially and in the popular media, not infrequently referred to as "undesirables" or "sick people";
  3. Bullying inside school premises and university campuses are not uncommon and tend to be under-reported;
  4. Though signs are that HK is getting more tolerant on this front, the stigma effect is still hurting many in the LGBT community.

Fifteen years of implementing the anti-discrimination legislation has taught us that:

  1. Legislation does serve as a positive tool to redress long standing prejudices and stereotyping;
  2. It has a noticeable deterrent effect on those intolerant members of the community who are least receptive to education efforts;
  3. It adds confidence to those who suffer from discrimination to face the situation rather than to withdraw, the latter with all its accompanying negative consequences, including poor self image and even chronic depression;
  4. It provides a tangible platform to demonstrate the community's collective will to respect diversity and to respect each other.


The negative effects of turning a blind eye to the LGBT issue in the workplace are plentiful:

  1. It breeds distrust among the work team and between staff and management;
  2. It breeds the feeling of unfairness as, for example, when same sex partners are not entitled to spousal benefits under HR policies;
  3. It weakens staff loyalty as they would naturally look for more friendly places to work;
  4. It cuts down staff productivity as LGBT members are under constant stress and anxiety in an unfriendly work environment.


The global trend for employment policy is to go for full inclusion and diversity, not just for LGBT members but also for women, for the able disabled, for talents with different skin colors, indeed for anyone who has the potential to be a valuable member of the workforce.

I have recently had an invitation from the US Consulate to speak at their forum on LGBT because the Obama Administration has made gender equality and respect for LGBT rights an integral part of their foreign policy.

I have also just had a dialogue with the Listing Committee of the HK Stock Exchange, to share the EOC's views on how we see diversity and inclusion as a tool to empower corporations, in addition to being in defense of natural human rights.

The world is moving, and moving fast on this front. As a multinational corporation, HSBC should, I suggest, stand at the forefront of this movement, not because it is the "politically correct" thing to do, but because it is the right and beneficial thing to do, both for your corporation and in the eyes of your valued global customers.

Adding your weight, for example, in calling for legislation to protect the rights of LGBT members in the workplace and in their daily lives would add a powerful voice to the movement and would be seen as a positive service for Hong Kong.

Thank you.