Reappoint Hong Kong equality chief York Chow
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Since the Hong Kong SAR Government announced the post of the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was opening up for applications on September 10, many minority groups as well as organisations championing equality, diversity and inclusion in the city have become concerned about possible moves to oust the incumbent, Dr York Chow Yat Ngok, whose term will expire on March 31, 2016.
The appointment authority for the EOC Chairperson rests with the Chief Executive, who may at his discretion renew an incumbent’s term. To date, however, the government has given no indication that it supports Dr Chow’s reappointment, despite Dr Chow having fulfilled his position diligently since assuming office in 2013.
His work in promoting equalities in Hong Kong
Under Dr Chow’s leadership, the EOC has been fulfilling its mandate to the letter. In fiscal year 2013-2014, it answered 16,700 enquiries; handled 820 cases with a 74 per cent reconciliation rate; and secured HK$4,618,000 in compensation for complainants of discrimination. It granted more than $1,599,000 to fund 63 community projects for promoting equal opportunities, and more than 55,000 employers and employees have attended EOC training programmes and talks.
Since 2013, the EOC has worked on five strategic priority areas, which have been endorsed by the Commission’s board. These are:
- Reviewing and modernising the existing four anti-discrimination laws
- Improving the education and employment opportunities for ethnic minorities
- Developing integrated education for students with special needs
- Advocating the reform of how disabilities are defined for the purpose of government benefits
- Advocating the protection of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people from discrimination
Dr Chow has initiated a series of positive developments since he commenced his term. They include:
- Advocating and supporting the government’s efforts to afford protection to service providers from sexual harassment by customers, resulting in an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance last year
- Establishing the Ethnic Minority Unit to lead its work in promoting equality and equal opportunities for ethnic minorities
- Co-organising the first ever Working Together for an Inclusive Society: LGBTI Rights in Comparative Perspective symposium with the Office of the European Union to Hong Kong and Macao, and the Gender Research Centre of the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Advancing issues of equality through constructive dialogue
In addition to handling complaints related to existing four anti-discrimination ordinances, the EOC has a statutory power to conduct research on issues of equality and discrimination in society. Initiatives launched under Dr Chow’s leadership in this area include:
- Study on the feasibility of introducing LGBTI anti-discrimination legislation
- Study on issues of age discrimination in employment and the feasibility of introducing age anti-discrimination legislation
- Establishing Local Tertiary Education Institutes Platform for sharing ideas and best practices among the institutions on issues relating to equal opportunities in education
Dr Chow has also endeavoured to listen to and take into account different viewpoints, with the hope of dispelling misconceptions and building more understanding of different minorities in society. .
His success in promoting Hong Kong’s image internationally
Dr Chow has also sought to project a positive image of Hong Kong in the national and global arenas, and encouraged greater international cooperation. Initiatives on this front include:
- Two presentations at the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions
- Sharing sessions with a number of international and mainland Chinese organisations on its work in promoting equality
- Collaboration with the global business community to enhance engagement on diversity and inclusion issues, including major financial institutions, the legal sector and professional networks such as Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network.
- Dr Chow and the EOC have also been closely engaged with Out on the Street, a global initiative bringing the largest financial services firms together in conversations around LGBT inclusion.
I believe that Dr Chow is the right person to continue at the helm of the EOC, to build upon the achievements of the commission during the last three years. His reappointment would not only provide continuity and stability in the leadership of Hong Kong’s most important human rights statutory body at this important time but also send a message both at home and abroad that the SAR government is serious about its commitment to countering discrimination and advancing equality for all in Hong Kong.
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