Following is a question by the Hon Cyd Ho and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):
When the Government announced the appointment of Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming (Prof Chan) to be the new Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on March 18 this year, the selection board concerned praised Prof Chan of his "clear vision, passion and commitment in respect of the promotion of equal opportunities". However, before taking the office, Prof Chan said in a media interview that the equal rights movement for people of different sexual orientations "was not a rational form of policy discussion", and that enactment of legislation to regulate discrimination against sexual orientation was "the least preferable". He also pointed out that EOC should, where possible, take the same stance as the Government on promoting equal opportunities. Besides, he expressly stated that he "felt kind of bored when approaching retirement and thought he might as well try out the hot kitchen". He also admitted that he was not familiar with the existing anti-discrimination ordinances (e.g. he mistakenly thought that sexual minorities were already protected from discrimination under the existing anti-discrimination ordinances, and confused "gender identity" with "sexual orientation"). Some comments have pointed out that Prof Chan's views reflect that he does not understand the controversial nature of the work on promoting anti-discrimination and is not committed to protecting the basic rights of the disadvantaged before making the decision to enter the hot kitchen. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the requirements on the applicants for the post of EOC Chairperson as set out in the recruitment advertisement included "a strong commitment to promoting equal opportunities", whether the authorities know if the selection board and the human resources consultant responsible for the recruitment had agreed on the ways to assess if an applicant satisfied this requirement, such as by conducting a test of the applicant's extent of knowledge of and experience in the work on human rights, and if the applicant could reflect the views of the disadvantaged who were subjected to discrimination;
(2) as there are views that the two former EOC Chairpersons, Dr York Chow and Ms Anna Wu Hung-yuk, dared to openly criticise the Government for its inadequacies in the work on promoting equal opportunities and even applied for judicial review to challenge the Secondary School Places Allocation System adopted by the Government, whether the authorities know if the selection board had any information showing that Prof Chan's commitment to promoting equal opportunities was no less than that of his predecessors; and
(3) whether it has approached members of the selection board to find out why they recommended, for appointment as the EOC Chairperson, someone who subsequently admitted that he was not familiar with the anti-discrimination ordinances and claimed that he felt kind of bored when approaching retirement and thought he might as well try out the hot kitchen, and whether it will put forward remedial measures in this regard to prevent any damage to the credibility of EOC?
Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Ho is as follows:
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is an independent statutory body established under section 63 of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) (Chapter 480 of the Laws of Hong Kong). According to the SDO, the Chairperson of the EOC is appointed on a full-time basis by the Chief Executive. The EOC was set up in 1996.
According to the SDO, the Chairperson and 16 members of the EOC jointly form the governing body of the EOC which performs the functions and exercise the powers of the EOC. The functions of the EOC include implementing the four existing anti-discrimination ordinances (viz. the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Disability Discrimination Ordinance, Family Status Discrimination Ordinance and Race Discrimination Ordinance), working towards the elimination of discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity and harmony, working towards elimination of harassment and vilification, handling complaints and assisting persons aggrieved by discrimination by way of conciliation and other assistance.
Since 2009, the Chairperson of the EOC has always been appointed through open recruitment and the same procedure was adopted for the appointment of the new Chairperson. Last year, the Government set up a Selection Board and engaged a human resources consultant to assist in the recruitment. An open recruitment exercise was launched on September 10 last year for a three-week period. The consultant reported to the Selection Board after conducting professional analysis on the applications received as well as other candidates deemed suitable. The Selection Board assessed every candidate by taking into consideration the professional analysis of the consultant and the requirements set out in the recruitment advertisement, and accordingly invited the potentially suitable candidates for interview. A total of 144 candidates were considered and the Selection Board unanimously agreed that Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming (Prof Chan) was the most suitable person for the post of the Chairperson of the EOC among the candidates under consideration. After considering the recommendation of the Selection Board, the Chief Executive appointed Prof Chan as the Chairperson of the EOC.
As stated by the Selection Board in its meeting with the media on the day when the appointment was announced, Prof Chan has an extensive public service record, having served in various Government advisory bodies and having considerable involvement in fields such as elderly matters, health, welfare and employment relationship, etc. Before his appointment as the Chairperson of the EOC, Prof Chan was Chairman of the Elderly Commission, member of the Minimum Wage Commission and the Independent Police Complaints Council, Convener of the Healthcare Services Industry Consultative Network of the Employees Retraining Board, and member of the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee. Furthermore, Prof Chan was a consultant on ageing and social development issues at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. He also dealt with ethnic minority issues through racial relations and community work in the United Kingdom.
On March 18, the Government announced the appointment of Prof Chan as the Chairperson of the EOC. Prof Chan assumed office on April 11. The EOC is an independent statutory body operating independently in accordance with its functions and powers provided under the four anti-discrimination ordinances. The Government does not interfere with the daily operations of the EOC. As the EOC is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the four anti-discrimination ordinances, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is also governed by the provisions of these ordinances, we considered it inappropriate for the Government to comment on the work of the EOC, including comments made by its Chairperson on its work.
We notice that Prof Chan has taken the initiative to meet with various stakeholders since his assumption of office, and received media interviews at various occasions. We believe that Prof Chan will continue to be dedicated to the work of EOC and together with EOC members, lead the EOC in discharging its statutory duties in an impartial manner, while actively promoting the message of equal opportunities in the community.
Every year, at the invitation of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs of the Legislative Council, a briefing is given by the EOC Chairperson to members of the Panel on the work of the EOC. We understand that Prof Chan will attend the meeting of the Panel on June 20. Members may wish to learn more about and discuss the salient areas of the EOC's work directly with Prof Chan at the occasion.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:39