Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (November 20):
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau issued the Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality (the Guidelines) in 2010 to provide guidance to the relevant bureaux, departments and other public authorities on promoting racial equality and ensuring equal access to public services by ethnic minorities in the key areas concerned. Moreover, the Centre for Harmony and Enhancement of Ethnic Minority Residents (CHEER), a support service centre for ethnic minorities funded by the Home Affairs Department, provides interpretation and translation services to facilitate ethnic minorities in using public services. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective numbers of occasions of CHEER providing interpretation and translation services and the respective numbers of occasions of government departments using "telephone interpretation service", "on-site (escort) interpretation service", "on-sight interpretation service" and "three-way video conferencing service" provided by CHEER, in each of the past three years;
(b) whether it knows the respective expenditure on implementation of the Guidelines incurred by the relevant bureaux, departments and other public authorities (including the Education Bureau, Food and Health Bureau, Department of Health, Labour Department, Social Welfare Department, Home Affairs Department, Hospital Authority, Vocational Training Council, Employees Retraining Board, Construction Industry Council, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority, the former Office of the Telecommunications Authority as well as Innovation and Technology Commission) in each of the past three years;
(c) as some social workers have pointed out that quite a number of people from the ethnic minorities seek assistance from the Housing Department (HD) on public housing matters from time to time, why HD is currently not covered by the Guidelines, and the criteria adopted by the authorities for determining which public services and government departments should be covered by the Guidelines;
(d) of the measures taken in the past three years and those to be taken in the next three years by the authorities to monitor the implementation of the Guidelines by the relevant bureaux, departments and other public authorities; and
(e) as some social workers have relayed to me that quite a number of people from the ethnic minorities are discriminated against in education and employment at present, whether the authorities will, in view of this, review the Guidelines; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(a) At present, the Home Affairs Department (HAD) commissions the Centre for Harmony and Enhancement of Ethnic Minority Residents (CHEER) to provide interpretation and translation services to assist ethnic minorities in obtaining information related to Government services.
The statistics of interpretation and translation services provided by CHEER in the past three years are as follows:
Number of occasions used
Service 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
------- ------- ------- -------
and enquiries 1,780 3,304 3,369
service (237) (384) (380)
On-site (escort) 415 462 515
interpretation service (191) (343) (463)
On-sight 119 82 141
interpretation (Not (N.A.) (N.A.)
service [Note 2] applicable
Written translation 42 56 36
service (32) (45) (26)
Total [Note 3] 2,356 3,904 4,061
(460) (772) (869)
[Note 1] On-site (escort) interpretation service is provided to ethnic minorities receiving services at Government departments such as the Department of Health.
[Note 2] Under the "on-sight interpretation service", ethnic minorities may bring written documents in English (e.g. letters from the Housing Department (HD) or school letters to parents) in person to CHEER which has interpreters providing verbal interpretation service in 7 ethnic minority languages to assist them in understanding the document. This service is provided with ethnic minorities as the target beneficiary and hence not applicable to government departments.
[Note 3] Apart from the interpretation and translation services mentioned above, where necessary, arrangement can be made to provide interpretation service to ethnic minorities at 3 service units of HD and 10 services units of the Social Welfare Department which are installed with video cameras by way of 3-way video conferencing with the interpreters of CHEER. However, no request for such service was received in the past three years.
( ) represents the number of occasions where the services are used by government departments.
(b) to (d) In 2010, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) issued the Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality (the Guidelines) to provide general guidance to relevant government bureaux and departments and public authorities (the departments) to promote racial equality and ensure equal access by ethnic minorities to public services in key areas concerned, and to take this into account in their formulation, implementation and review of relevant policies and measures.
The Guidelines cover the key public services which are particularly relevant to meeting the special needs of ethnic minorities and facilitating their integration into the community, namely, medical, education, vocational training, employment and major community services. In 2010, the scope of application of the Guidelines included 14 departments (namely the Education Bureau, Social Welfare Department, Labour Department, HAD, Employees Retraining Board, Vocational Training Council, Food and Health Bureau, Department of Health, Hospital Authority, Construction Industry Council, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, Innovation and Technology Commission, former Office of the Telecommunications Authority and former Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority [Note 4]).
Implementing the Guidelines is an integral part of the work of the departments. Relevant departments will deploy resources in accordance with the policies concerned and the measures to be taken forward so as to ensure that all the measures can be implemented smoothly; a breakdown of the expenditures thus incurred is not available.
In 2013, the scope of application of the Guidelines was extended to 8 additional departments (namely HD, Hong Kong Observatory, Post Office, Legal Aid Department, Hong Kong Police Force, Correctional Services Department, Customs and Excise Department and Immigration Department). In the case of the HD, it has been covered by the Guidelines since September this year. To facilitate ethnic minorities' access to various public housing services, HD has put in place a number of measures which include uploading leaflets in various ethnic minority languages onto the Housing Authority (HA) / HD website to set out in detail the general information concerning application for public housing; employing two Pakistani Hall Attendants to offer reception and simple interpretation service in the HA Customer Service Centre to the ethnic minorities public housing applicants and providing translation service through CHEER at the request of the ethnic minorities public housing applicants; and promoting racial harmony through estate newsletter, promotional video, poster and partnering community functions jointly organised by the Estate Management Advisory Committee and non-governmental organisations.
According to the Guidelines, the departments should draw up checklists of measures that would assist in promoting racial equality and equal access to key public services to enhance the transparency of their work. The checklists contain contact information of the departments and have been uploaded onto the CMAB website. Where necessary, the departments will issue updates on the information of the checklists. As reflected by the departments, the Guidelines have been implemented smoothly so far, and relevant measures have received positive feedback from ethnic minority residents.
The Administration will continue to review the implementation of the Guidelines as necessary and consider further extending the coverage of the Guidelines.
(e) Under the Race Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful to discriminate another person on the ground of his race in the areas of education and employment. Any ethnic minority person subject to race discrimination in the areas of education and employment may lodge a complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and undergo conciliation with the EOC's assistance. If the conciliation fails, the aggrieved person may seek assistance from the EOC to make civil claims in court. An aggrieved person can also make civil claims for unlawful racial discrimination directly under the Race Discrimination Ordinance.
[Note 4] On April 1, 2012, former Office of the Telecommunications Authority and former Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority merged to form the Office of the Communications Authority.
Ends/Wednesday, November 20, 2013