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The Rights of the Individual

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Race Discrimination Ordinance

What is the purpose of the Race Discrimination Ordinance?

The Race Discrimination Ordinance ("the Ordinance") was enacted in July 2008 and came into full operation in July 2009. The Ordinance, which makes discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of race unlawful, serves to ensure that people of different races are treated equally in Hong Kong.

What is race?

"Race" means the race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin of a person. A "racial group" means a group of persons defined by reference to the above characteristics.

What are racial discrimination, racial harassment and racial vilification?

Generally speaking, "racial discrimination" occurs when a person treats another person less favourably on the ground of race of that other person or a near relative of that other person, or applies to that other person a requirement or condition which he applies equally to persons of other racial groups but the proportion of persons of the same racial group as that other person who can comply with it is considerably smaller than the proportion of persons not of that racial group who can comply with it, and that the imposition of requirement or condition, which is to the detriment of that other person because he cannot comply with it, cannot be shown to be justifiable.

"Racial harassment" occurs when a person, on the ground of the race of another person or a near relative of that other person, engages in unwelcome conduct (which may include an oral or a written statement) that offends, humiliates or intimidates that other person, or acts in such a way as to make the environment hostile or intimidating for that other person.

"Racial vilification" occurs when a person, by any activity in public, incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, another person or members of a class of persons on the ground of the race of that other person or members of the class of persons.

What areas of activities does the Ordinance cover?

The specified areas of activities covered by the Ordinance include:

  • employment
  • education
  • provision of goods, facilities or services
  • disposal or management of premises
  • eligibility to vote for and to be elected or appointed to public bodies, public authorities and statutory advisory bodies
  • offer of pupillage and tenancy by a barrister
  • membership of clubs

How to lodge a complaint if you are racially discriminated against or harassed?

Racial discrimination, harassment and vilification are unlawful. If you experience treatment that you think may be unlawful under the Ordinance, you may bring proceedings in the District Court within two years from the time when the act is done, or lodge a written complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission ("the Commission") within 12 months from the time when the act is done. The Commission will provide appropriate assistance.

The Commission is an independent statutory body. Subject to certain exceptions, information obtained by the Commission in the course of a formal investigation will be kept in strict confidence. The Commission encourages conciliation between the parties in dispute. If the complaint cannot be resolved, the Commission may provide appropriate assistance in court proceedings should the victim decide to take his/her case to court.

Further information

Equal Opportunities Commission
19F.,CityPlaza Three
14 Taikoo Wan Road
TaikooShing, Hong Kong
Tel. No.: (Hotline): 2511 8211
Fax No.: 2511 8142

(This article only provides general information on the Ordinance. The information is by no means exhaustive or definitive. Readers are advised to refer to the text of the Ordinance if they are interested in more details.)