At the hearing held by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee) in Geneva, Switzerland today (August 7, Geneva Time), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government team reaffirmed Hong Kong's commitment to meeting the obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention) and taking measures to reinforce protection of individuals against racial discrimination and promote racial equality.
The team attended the hearing as part of China's delegation. The hearing was held by the Committee to consider China's Report under the Convention, of which Hong Kong's report formed a part.
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Arthur Ho, who led the HKSAR Government team, reported on developments in Hong Kong on the implementation of the Convention.
"To strengthen the legislative framework, the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) was enacted in July 2008. It became fully operational last month after the related rules and regulations have also been enacted and a code of practice has been put in place to provide guidance to employers and employees for compliance with the new law. The RDO binds all departments of the Government, including law enforcement agencies in all the specified areas," Mr Ho said.
"In addition, the Government has been taking measures to enhance support to ethnic minorities and facilitate their integration into the community. Starting this year, the Government has sponsored non-governmental organisations to establish and operate four support service centres for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. They provide interpretation services, language training classes, orientation programmes, counselling and other activities.
"To facilitate non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students integrating into the local education system and learning the Chinese language, we have put in place support measures such as summer bridging programmes to assist NCS students to adapt to primary school education, and setting up Chinese Language Support Centres to reinforce after-school support services. A special grant is provided to designated schools so that they can develop supporting teaching materials for these students and share their experience with other schools. Other support measures include curriculum adaptation, provision of teaching and learning materials and development of assessment tools.
"The Government has stepped up the provision of vocational training to ethnic minorities to enhance their employment opportunities. These include dedicated programmes such as placement-tied vocational skills training courses conducted in English, generic skill training courses, basic vocational Chinese language courses, preparatory courses for trade tests, etc."
Mr Ho also addressed concerns about certain rules and practices regarding foreign domestic helpers (FDHs).
"In Hong Kong, FDHs enjoy the same statutory rights and benefits as local workers. They are further protected by a minimum allowable wage and a mandatory standard employment contract which sets out basic employment terms such as free passage, free accommodation and food, and free medical treatment provided by employers."
At the meeting, the Rapporteur and a number of members of the Committee raised some comments and questions concerning the HKSAR, including detailed provisions of the RDO (such as the scope of application of the Ordinance, and administrative and budgetary provisions to implement the RDO), working conditions of FDHs, as well as the proposed exemption of live-in domestic workers from the Minimum Wage Bill. The team will respond to these questions and comments when the Committee meets again on August 10.
The HKSAR Government team comprises officials of the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau, the Education Bureau, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau and the Labour Department.
Ends/Saturday, August 8, 2009
HKSAR Government team attends hearing by UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Photo shows the Deputy Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Arthur Ho (centre), speaking at the hearing held by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, Switzerland today (August 7, Geneva Time).