In response to the press statement issued by a number of non-governmental organisations regarding the Race Discrimination Bill, a Government spokesman reiterated today (February 24) that the Government was committed to combat racial discrimination and to its objective to enact legislation to protect all people in Hong Kong, including the ethnic minorities, against racial discrimination.
The spokesman also emphasised the Government’s policy to promote equal opportunity for the ethnic minorities by providing the appropriate support services.
In regard to the specific issues raised, the spokesman said, “on Clause 3 which relates to the application of the Race Discrimination Ordinance to the Government, we appreciate the concerns in regard to the possible misimpression that a broad exemption is provided to the Government. We are therefore considering the possibility of amending this clause to make it clear that the Bill, when enacted, will apply to the Government.
“The Government is considering whether there is scope for Clause 4, which relates to the definition of racial discrimination and the tests of justifications for indirect discrimination, to be refined in order to address the concerns which the tests embodied in the clause have given rise to,” the spokesman added.
As regards the definition of “race” in the Bill, the spokesman clarified, “the definition – which means race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin – is consistent with that internationally adopted under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).”
Responding to the question raised over the exception clauses, the spokesman explained that they were included in the Bill to “ensure clarity and certainty of the legislative provisions, especially to avoid misunderstanding and unnecessary disputes after enactment of the Bill.” These exception clauses have been proposed for appropriate reasons, including:
(a) to ensure that special measures which are intended for bestowing benefits on ethnic minorities and promoting equal opportunities for them are not regarded as racial discrimination;
(b) to provide for lawful and justified protection for the legitimate rights and freedoms of others; or
(c) to delineate the scope of the Bill and to provide for clarity and uncertainty of the law in areas which were not intended to be covered by the Bill.
The spokesman added, “consistent with the principles of rationality and proportionality, which have been widely adopted by international human rights authorities, the proposed exception clauses have been critically examined against the following criteria.”
(a) the provision serves a legitimate and needed purpose;
(b) it is justified on reasonable grounds; and
(c) the exception is proportional to the objective and to the level of protection required.
“The Government will work closely with the Bills Committee of the Legislative Council with a view to resuming second reading of the Bill within the current Legislative Council session,” the spokesman said.
The Central People's Government had responded to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the Government of the People's Republic of China would soon submit its consolidated 10th to 13th periodic reports on the implementation of the ICERD and that part of the reports, which concerned the HKSAR, would deal with the Race Discrimination Bill in greater detail," he added.
Ends/Sunday, February 24, 2008