Opening Ceremony of Equal Opportunity Festival 2016 University of Hong Kong
Organised by University of Hong Kong
Speech by Prof Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission （只备英文版）
Professor Mathieson, Dr Cannon, fellow guests, friends and students,
Good afternoon. This is the first time I am attending the Equal Opportunity Festival as the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission. I would like to thank The University of Hong Kong for inviting me to this meaningful event.
I have always felt at ease in the academic environment, not only because I have been doing research and teaching for many years, but also because the academia is the place where people can focus on their own work and passion, while sharing the same great cause of making the world a better place through knowledge.
Universities have significant social obligations. As Professor Mathieson remarked at the HeforShe event in August, another initiative celebrating equality, “educated societies look to their universities for leadership by example.” No wonder, universities are fertile grounds for nurturing leaders who wield the power to shape and transform society. If we want to promote the values of diversity and equality, they are the good place to start.
Education itself has witnessed the advancement of equality through the years. Once upon a time, education was the privilege of the rich and powerful. Today, schools and universities open their doors to all who meet the same requirements, irrespective of their backgrounds and differences.
Unfortunately, even in today’s Hong Kong, one of the world’s most vibrant and developed cities, some people still lack equal opportunities to education. A lot of ethnic minority children, for example, are denied access to local schools despite the fact that they are born and raised here in the city. It is also more difficult for students with disabilities to find schools due to accessibility issues.
And education is only one area where inequality takes place. In the workplace, in the provision of services, and in other aspects of everyday life, certain groups of people constantly face less favourable treatment and discrimination due to their differences from the mainstream.
If we think about it, we are all different in our own way, and we all want to be understood and accepted for our differences, instead of being pigeonholed or marginalised. Discrimination stems precisely from stereotypes, from preconceptions, from the unwillingness to see people in their entirety. If we see each other as unique individuals, instead of as categories, and if we see people beneath the surface, we will be able to see a lot more.
And employers will have a greater chance in hiring the right people; universities will bring in a wealth of ideas and innovation; businesses will welcome more customers; you and I will meet new friends that will open our eyes with their extraordinary experiences.
The world, as a whole, will become a better, happier place if we appreciate rather than resent one another for our differences. As famous German writer Goethe (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) said, “We are drawn to each other because of our similarities, but it is our differences we must learn to respect.”
For 20 years, the Equal Opportunities Commission has been promoting equality and encouraging society to accept and respect differences. We have also been helping people who suffer from discrimination to seek redress, by implementing the four anti-discrimination ordinances, which make discrimination on the grounds of sex, disability, family status and race unlawful.
For too many times I have heard the remark, “The Equal Opportunities Commission has little power.” Some even say we are a “paper tiger”. Anyone who understands the worth of equal opportunities would not have such a thought.
But instead of turning our backs to people who misunderstand us and criticise us, we at the Commission practise what we preach by respecting differences in opinion and will continue to do our best in promoting the ideal of equal opportunities for all. We are proud to be celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, and we promise to never lose hope that one day everyone in society will understand the true value of equality.
I particularly hope that the students of HKU, the future elites of society, will do more than just recognising and accepting differences; I hope you will speak up and stand up for those who are oppressed because of their differences, like real leaders do.
Many parties in society are already playing an active part in eliminating discrimination and advancing equal rights for all. The HKU is certainly one of them, and the Equal Opportunities Commission is very pleased to support the university’s great causes.
Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely invite you to join the Equal Opportunities Commission, The University of Hong Kong and many others in society to uphold the precious value of equality.
Finally, I encourage you to visit the booth set up by the Equal Opportunities Commission and sign up for our talks to learn more about how to fight discrimination.
I wish all of you a wonderful time and the EO Festival resounding success. Thank you very much.