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Press Releases

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Government's response to comments from non-government organisations on the issue of racial discrimination in Hong Kong

     In response to media enquiries, a Government spokesman said today (August 2) that the Government is fully committed to reinforce protection against racial discrimination and promote racial equality in Hong Kong.

     "The Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms as well as and safeguard equality before the law and equal protection of the law without any discrimination. These instruments bind the Government and prohibit Government from practising all forms of discrimination, including that on the ground of race," the spokesman said.

     "The enactment of the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) is a major step in strengthening the legal framework for prohibiting racial discrimination. The RDO explicitly provides that it binds the Government. During the legislative process, the Government had fully taken into account views received and incorporated appropriate amendments in the Ordinance. The RDO protects all persons in Hong Kong, including new arrivals from the Mainland, from racial discrimination."

     "The Government is concerned about the difficulties faced by some new arrivals from the Mainland. Support services are implemented in different areas to facilitate their integration into the community."

     "The Government is also committed to providing support services to ethnic minorities to facilitate their integration into the community. We have granted funds for non-government organisations to establish and operate four support service centres for ethnic minorities. Three centres have commenced operation and the fourth one, which will provide telephone interpretation services, will commence operation soon."

     "In addition, the Government is consulting various parties on the draft Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality, which provide general guidance to relevant public authorities. We will take into account views expressed by relevant parties before finalising the Guidelines."

     "To facilitate non-Chinese speaking students to learn the Chinese language, the Government has put in place a number of educational support measures, in terms of curriculum adaptation, provision of teaching and learning materials, after-school support services, etc. to cater for their special needs. We also provide a special grant to schools with a critical mass of non-Chinese speaking students and strengthen the on-site focused support to schools. The Government is now exploring feasible means of relieving the economic burden for non-Chinese speaking students to sit in the GCSE Chinese examination."

     "Civil service grades are normally required to specify Chinese and English proficiency requirements for appointment. These requirements are needed on operational grounds to ensure that the civil service operates efficiently and effectively in both official languages and to meet the long-term operational and development needs."

     "The Police have been co-operating with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide training to officers in order to enhance their awareness on racial equality. The Police will continue their efforts in this regard. In relation to the case of the shooting of a Nepalese man by a police constable, the coroner, upon considering the detailed Police investigation report, has already decided to hold a death inquest," he said.

     "The Government is also working on a legal regime for handling torture claimants as recommended by the Committee on Convention Against Torture."

     "In respect of the foreign domestic helpers (FDHs), the Government attaches great importance to protecting their rights, regardless of their race. The employees retraining levy has been suspended up to July 31, 2013 for a total period of five years. Notwithstanding the levy suspension, the Government's overall policy that the operating expenses of the Employees Retraining Board should be primarily met by the levy income remains unchanged."

     "The‘two-week rule’is necessary to maintain effective immigration control. It helps preventing frequent job-hopping and FDHs working illegally after termination of contracts. The policy does not preclude FDHs from working in Hong Kong again after returning to their places of domicile. In addition, appropriate flexibility is allowed under the present arrangements."

     "The Government proposes to exempt live-in domestic workers (regardless of whether they are local or foreign ones) from the proposed statutory minimum wage after careful consideration. The distinctive working pattern of live-in domestic workers renders calculating and logging of working hours, and thus application of the proposed statutory scheme, practically impossible."

     "The EOC is a statutory independent body to enforce the anti-discrimination laws, including the newly implemented RDO, and promote equal opportunities. The appointment of the new EOC board, which represents a balanced mix of expertise and representatives of various sectors, has taken effect from May 20, 2009. The Administration is making preparation for the appointment of a new EOC Chairperson, to take office when the term of appointment of the existing Chairperson expires in January 2010, through an open recruitment exercise."

     Representatives from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government will attend a hearing in Geneva, Switzerland on August 7 and 10 held by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee), the treaty monitoring body for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention).

     The HKSAR Government team will be led by the Deputy Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Arthur Ho. Other members of the team comprise officials from the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau, the Education Bureau, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau and the Labour Department.

Ends/Sunday, August 2, 2009