EOC queried if it has a political task to fulfill

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(Chapman Chen, Local Press, reports)

The Equal Opportunities Commission held its third public consultation meeting in its Taikoo Shing headquarters yesterday, allegedly “to hear public’s views on the Discrimination Law Review.” Many participants queried whether the EOC was exceeding its authority and favouring Mainland Chinese in trying to include them in the Discrimination Law protection. One participant even stressed that there was no longer rule of law in Hong Kong since the National People’s Congress re-interpreted the Basic Law in 1999.

Mr. Peter Reading, the legal counsel of EOC, replied that in including Mainland Chinese in the Discrimination Law Review, “the EOC is neither fulfilling any political task nor trying to favour Mainland Chinese.” Instead, the EOC is acting in response to the United Nations’ recommendation that these areas be included in the Discrimination Law. The UN’s recommendation should be taken seriously because “it is the only global organization which upholds human rights in the world.” After the meeting, our reporter was given an interview by Mr. Reading.

Reporter from Local Press:

  • 1. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the Protection of the Family Resolution, excluding LGBT families. Is EOC going to follow this resolution? If not, why should EOC follow the UN’s recommendation that Mainland Chinese be included in the discrimination law? Last time, your colleague Mr. Poon said that EOC had NOT yet discussed this.
  • 2. The Hong Kong Educational Authorities’ promotion of Putonghua as the medium of instruction of the Chinese subject at HK schools is depriving Hongkongers of their human right to education in their mother tongue, that is, Cantonese. Isn’t this discrimination against Cantonese-speaking Hongkongers. Last time, your colleague’s answer to me was that EOC had NOT considered this issue.
  • 3. These examples show that EOC has arbitrarily proposed inclusion of Mainland Chinese in the Discrimination Law protection, without considering holistically the Hong Kong situation. Why should EOC propose this amendment so rashly, so imprudently? Is it because EOC has a political task to fulfill?
  • 4. Paragraph 2.86 of the EOC consultation document states that the Court of Final Appeal’s recent decision on the Kong Yuming case “illustrates differences in treatment of new immigrants from China which were not for a legitimate aim or proportionate.” But Mr. Justice Ribeiro’s judgment on this case clearly states that the decision is based on Articles 36 and 145 of the Basic Law, that is “Hong Kong residents shall have the right to social welfare in accordance with law.”So the decision is NOT based on any discrimination law or ordinance, as pointed out by a legal expert in an article of him published in Local Press. Why should EOC deliberately distort the law and mislead the public? Is it again for a political purpose?

[youtube id=”tTrnQPr4bkQ”]
video credit: Swiss TV RTS

Mr. Peter Reading’s answers:

A. “We had a look at the UN’s resolution. We don’t think that it excludes different types of family relationships. And in other contexts, the UN actually says that there shouldn’t be discrimination, for example, in relation to same-sex couples, in relation to benefits.”

B. “We think that it is important that Cantonese is maintained as a language in Hong Kong. We don’t think right now what the Government is doing is unlawful, because it is not compulsory. This is something you need to raise with the Education Bureau. We are saying that that exception on medium of instruction under the RDO should be lifted so that the Government can’t choose to teach in particular languages. We are not saying in favour of Putonghua. We have not considered the Putonghua issue in particular, but that is not the intention of the exception. It is not to allow the Government to make lawful only teaching in Putonghua.”

C. “We are not rushing. This consultation exercise is to listen to you and everyone else. We have not made any decisions. After we listen to everyone, we will think about what to do. It is not a proposal, just a potential.”

D. “We do not have any political purpose. It wasn’t the local government nor China which asked us to include the Mainland Chinese in the review. It’s us, independently. The judgment… the majority decided that the refusal to provide social benefits to immigrants from Mainland China unless they had been here for seven years, they said that that was unlawful and it should be one year, which was the system before. It wasn’t under the discrimination law. It is only to illustrate an issue of differences in treatment of new migrants.”

Jerome Chiu from Passion Times:

“All anti-discrimination laws are based on the fundamental principle that people are not to be held responsible for things that are not of their own choosing.” But nature does not ordain Mainland Chinese to queue jump, to urinate and to defecate in public in Hong Kong. “They choose to do so out of their own free will.” We are filled with anger, anxiety and frustration “when we see them violating common civil decency”, which is valued highly in Hong Kong. “It is not our fault to single them out. They are an elephant in the living room.” And we don’t have the right to choose who can come to Hong Kong.

Mr. Peter Reading:

I am partly British and partly Chinese. “The first time I went to the Ocean Park, a Mainlander jumped in front of me. I was angry and upset. I understand that these concerns are real. ” “Anyone who acts unlawfully in Hong Kong should be dealt with by the law”, be they Mainlanders or not. We are not proposing that Mainlanders be favoured. We just want to make sure that whoever is Hong Kong legally, whether they are from China or not, “have the right to be treated equally, as long as they are acting lawfully.”

Paul Dennis Tarrant, Chair of HKSAR Ethnic Minority Concern Group:

“Nobody in this government had the decency to apologize to the Indonesian maid Erwiana, who suffered months of abuse from her Hong Kong employer. That reflects something on this society. I apologize to her sincerely.” There is no comprehensive discrimination law in Hong Kong. “There is actually neither rule of law” nor full democracy in Hong Kong. “Ever since Tung Chee-hwa solicited in 1999 the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law in relation to the right of abode issue, the rule of law in Hong Kong” has been badly damaged.

Bonix Chung, Passion Times:

“Locust” is just a metaphor for uncivilized behaviour. What we condemn is certain Mainlanders’ uncivilized behaviour, instead of their personal background. If they behave in a civilized way in public, I believe no one will condemn them. “Every Hongkonger has the right to keep up a good living standard in Hong Kong.” Moreover, the influx of travelers from China is placing an all too heavy burden on local resources. The EOC is not to neglect the current situation of Hong Kong, and it should not try to resolve these problems by way of the Discrimination Ordinance. In doing so, “it is exceeding its authority.”


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