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LC: Opening speech by SCMA in proposing resolution under the Race Discrimination Ordinance

     Following is the speech (English translation) by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in moving the motion to amend the Code of Practice on Employment under the Race Discrimination Ordinance at the Legislative Council today (July 8):

Mr President,

     I move that the Code of Practice on Employment under the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO), which was introduced into this Council on May 6, 2009, be amended as set out in the proposed Resolution.

     The RDO was enacted in July 2008. In October 2008, we brought into force sections relevant to empowering the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to exercise its functions under the Ordinance, including preparation of the relevant code of practice and undertaking relevant publicity efforts. Due to the complexity of the issues relating to race discrimination, we have adopted the approach to bring into force the remaining sections of the Ordinance at the same time when the Code of Practice on Employment and related rules and regulations come into operation. This would allow the public, in particular employers and employees, to have a better understanding of the Ordinance when it is implemented.

     The Code of Practice was issued by the EOC and gazetted on May 8, 2009, after undertaking wide public consultation from October 2008 to January 2009 and taking into account the views received. 

     The EOC has made further amendments to the Code in response to comments received during the scrutiny by the Subcommittee which was formed to scrutinise the Code as well as two Rules made by the EOC, namely the Race Discrimination (Formal Investigations) Rules and the Race Discrimination (Investigation and Conciliation) Rules.

     These amendments to the Code, which I move today, include elaborations on a number of sections including those on treatments based on race related factors such as religion or language, clarification of the responsibilities of employers, principals as well as employees, and prevention of harassment on the ground of race.

     If the proposed resolution is approved, the Code will come into operation on the date the resolution is published in the Gazette, i.e. July 10, 2009. We plan to bring into force, on the same day, the remaining sections of the RDO, as well as the two Rules made by the EOC, and the Race Discrimination (Proceedings by Equal Opportunities Commission) Regulation which has earlier been approved by this Council. This will be done by means of a commencement notice to be gazetted on July 10, 2009 to appoint the date of commencement of the relevant instruments.

     I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Paul Tse and members of the Subcommittees for their efforts in scrutinising the Code and the relevant instruments. They have provided many valuable comments and suggestions, including the suggestion to promote the RDO and the Code to foreign domestic helpers and their employers. We appreciate the concerns of Members in this regard. The EOC, the Labour Department and the Immigration Department will step up their publicity efforts on the RDO and the Code, including distributing pamphlets on the RDO at their counters, particularly those relevant to employment of foreign domestic helpers, and linkage to information on the RDO at their web pages relevant to employment of foreign domestic helpers. The EOC will also arrange for distribution of the information to foreign domestic workers via consulates in Hong Kong and via our Mobile Information Service operated by a non-government organisation at the Airport.  The EOC would of course continue to promote the RDO and the Code to all sectors of the community.

     Mr President, we have come a long way since the Race Discrimination Bill was introduced in December 2006. During the 34 meetings of the Bills Committee to scrutinise the bill and 10 meetings of the Subcommittees to scrutinise the subsidiary legislation and the Code, Members and all parties concerned have provided very valuable input. We will see the new legislation and related instruments coming into operation in a few days. This is an important milestone in our efforts to promote racial equality. I would like to thank all of you for your contribution and look forward to Members’ continued support in this meaningful work.

     Mr President, I beg to move.

Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2009