Equal Opportunities Festival 2011
Organised by The University of Hong Kong
Speech by Mr LAM Woon-kwong, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission
Professor Chin, guests and friends,
Good afternoon. I am delighted to see all of you here today.
This year is the HKU’s centenary. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. The two are, of course, inextricably linked – Dr. Sun Yat Sen once said that HKU and Hong Kong were the “birthplace of his knowledge.” Indeed, this university has long pioneered social change.
In thinking of social change, the theme of racial diversity and disability awareness to this year’s festival is fitting.
I know that HKU has long led the way to promote diversity on campus and within its student body. There are a number of proactive initiatives that the university has taken to advance these two ideals. For instance, I know that there are an increasing number of students from all over the world here at HKU, which offers you a great opportunity to embrace racial diversity.
In implementing these initiatives, you are already ahead of many others, since unfortunately many still hold outdated stereotypes about people of other races or with disabilities. For instance, many ethnic minority students in Hong Kong still struggle for the opportunity to achieve a decent education or to go to a top university like this one. Recently, the EOC also conducted a survey on society’s attitude about people with disabilities. It found that although 95 percent of the respondents consider equal opportunities important, about half disapproved of the presence of people with mental illness in their neighbourhood, while one-third felt the same way about people living with HIV/AIDS.
What these numbers tell us is that the understanding of what equal opportunity truly means remains limited. While most of society recognizes that equal opportunities is important, there remains a disconnect between the idea of equal opportunities and its real-life application.
It is heartening to see so many of you here today, willing to do your part to ensure equal opportunities for all. But equality is not a static concept, and many groups remain marginalized. In the past, many generations before you have fought for the rights that we enjoy today. Now is not the time to stand aside.
As HKU students, you are tomorrow’s leaders. You have a responsibility to spearhead positive changes in society. Like Dr. Sun, what you learn here, in and outside the classroom, will inform and influence what you do beyond this campus.
So, in celebrating the Equal Opportunities Festival, I urge you to take a moment to consider not only the importance of equal opportunities, but also how it can be realised in your own life.
After all, all of you here today have the power to shape the future.
Each of you has the ability to recognize and respect another person’s dignity.
Each of you is studying among your peers from different backgrounds, origins, and perspectives. Learn from each other.
Each of you has the capacity, now and later, to stand up and ensure that another person has an equal chance to participate meaningfully in society.
Each of you is capable of appreciating diversity and the way it enriches your perspective on the world, especially as borders blur and groups intermingle.
Each of you can continue HKU’s tradition of leading the charge for a fairer world for all, within and beyond these walls.
Thank you, and enjoy the festival.