Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 27):
It has been reported that without conducting any preliminary verification, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) launched an investigation in July last year into a complaint which alleged that the headline of a report in a newspaper constituted disability vilification against the mentally ill, and requested the newspaper to send representatives to attend a conciliation meeting with the complainant. However, it was subsequently established that the allegation made in the complaint was not true. Moreover, due to misinterpretation of the legislation, EOC last year rejected a complaint against an airline company about its refusal to allow a disabled person to board a plane. Furthermore, EOC spent $370,000 in January this year to organise a seminar which lasted for only one day, and hence was criticised by some EOC members and the public for being too extravagant and wasting public money. As the above incidents have aroused public concern, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) whether they have discussed with the EOC members to assess if there are problems with the governance of EOC;
(b) of the measures to improve and enhance the governance of EOC; and
(c) whether they have considered requesting EOC to replace those senior management staff who are found derelict in their duties?
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is an independent statutory body responsible for the implementation of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Disability Discrimination Ordinance and Family Status Discrimination Ordinance. According to the relevant legislation, the governing body of the EOC is formed by its members and has the authority, in the name of the Commission, to perform the functions and exercise of the powers of the Commission. The legislation also empowers the EOC to employ such persons as it thinks fit to carry out any matter relating to the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.?
As regards the media reports mentioned in the preamble of the question, the EOC has already clarified the matters in public. We also understand from the EOC that the issues did not concern the governance of the EOC or raise the question of the need for replacement of EOC staff.
In the light of its experience in handling the relevant cases, the EOC has already implemented improvement measures in its procedures. These include adopting more stringent procedures in verifying the information provided by complainants and introducing a formal review mechanism for review of cases which are not proposed to be further investigated as they are considered outside the scope of existing legislation.
Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008