Opening Ceremony Equal Opportunity Festival University of Hong Kong
Organised by University of Hong Kong
Speech of Opening Ceremony（只備英文版） Mr Raymond Tang, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission
It is my great pleasure to attend this opening ceremony of the Equal Opportunity Festival.
I congratulate the University of Hong Kong for launching this very meaningful event. The University has played host to many advancements in knowledge and gender equality in the past century. Women started to study at the University of Hong Kong in the 1920’s. During the 1970’s, the University started to provide its blind students with study aids and facilities Since then, more and more accessibility features have been put in place. Policies on equal opportunities and an EO Committee and an EO Unit have been established to spearhead positive measures in this area. The work you have done is truly worthy of your premier status in academia and in nurturing our future generations. I know that the University is planning to do even more in advancing equal opportunities and you have my whole-hearted support and appreciation.
Some people think that “equal opportunities” means “equality”, in the sense of equal numbers or sameness in outcome, and they claim that there is no equality as such in the real world. In fact, that is not the objective of our anti-discrimination laws. What we advocate is equal access to opportunities. The emphasis is on “access”. It means ignoring irrelevant factors, such as whether the individual is male or female, married or single, Chinese or non-Chinese, with or without a disability. Put plainly, the individual is to have a fair chance to put his or her foot in the door and to have a fair go in achieving one’s aspirations.
The Equal Opportunities Commission was established in 1996 with the mandate of eliminating discrimination on the grounds of gender, disability, family status, pregnancy and marital status. Since our establishment, accessibility-related cases make up about 13% of total complaints lodged under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance. Under the law, all buildings, which the public is entitled to enter, may be required to be modified and made accessible, unless alteration to the premises would pose unjustifiable hardship to the building management or owner. In the past ten years, improvements to building facilities in many of the complaint cases were achieved after intervention by the EOC, and the majority of cases were settled through conciliation.
Improving accessibility is not only because of our concerns for humanity considerations, or, for the purpose of legal compliance. Given the demographic changes in Hong Kong with an aging population, it is important to provide adequate access and facilities for all people. This year we are planning to undertake a Formal Investigation on Accessibility targeting a number of publicly accessible buildings and facilities, owned or managed by the Government, the Housing Authority, the Housing Society and The Link Management Ltd. (which took over a large number of previously government-owned shopping centres and related facilities).
Accessible features that encourage inclusion and independent participation in society empower people of all abilities and ages, and make Hong Kong a better place for every one.
At the international level, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marks a shift in approach - from treating disability as a social welfare concern to approaching disability as a human rights issue. The Convention was adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in December 2006 and opened for signature by State Parties on March 30, 2007, and on that very first day, our sovereign nation, the People’s Republic of China, signed the Convention. This Convention marks the first step towards addressing disability issues in a more structured manner and would benefit the estimated 650 million disabled people around the world. The EOC was privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute during the deliberation and drafting stage of the Convention.
In Hong Kong, we have in place a legal framework of preventing discrimination, and well placed in terms of compliance with the Convention. But this is no cause for complacency, as we are aware that many aspects remain to be addressed before full and equal participation by all members in our society can be achieved.
There are still many challenges and obstacles ahead. But they may be viewed as occasions to strengthen our collective resolve in providing everyone with an equal playing field.
Thank you all for coming and supporting this event and I wish the Festival every success.
 Mr. Chong Chan-yau, a co-opted Member of the EOC, and the Director of Student Development at HKU, is one of the earlier students who have used the study aids for the blind provided by HKU. In the 80’s, the University appointed its first blind lecturer, Dr. Stevenson Fung, who was later promoted to professorship (in the Department of Physics). Dr. Fung was an EOC Member from 1996 to 2003, and wasConvenor of its IT Task Force.
 viz. Sex Discrimination Ordinance Cap. 480, Disability Discrimination Ordinance Cap. 487 and Family Status Discrimination Ordinance Cap. 527. The Race Discrimination Bill is currently under scrutiny by its Bills Committee in LegCo.
 Section 66 of the Disability Discrimination Ordinance empowers the Equal Opportunities Commission to conduct formal investigations with power to obtain information from relevant parties. Recommendations arising from findings in a formal investigation may be made the subject of subsequent enforcement notices.