|LCQ14: Government respects and safeguards the freedom of speech and academic freedom
Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):
It has been reported that on a mainland webcast television programme on January 19 this year, a Peking University professor, when commenting on an incident involving a mainland child eating in an MTR train compartment, pointed out that "the people of Hong Kong are dogs", and he even insulted the people of Hong Kong using harsh words such as "the use of the rule of law to maintain order in a place is proof that the people there have neither quality nor self-consciousness......put in a single word: cheap", and the incident sparked strong reaction from people of both the Mainland and Hong Kong, as well as extensive coverage by overseas media including the Japanese media, etc. The report has also pointed out that in addition to the aforesaid incident, the worsening problem of pregnant mainland women whose spouses are not Hong Kong residents giving birth in Hong Kong in recent years, the "D&G photo ban incident" as well as incidents of famous brand stores in Hong Kong being alleged of favouring mainland visitors and neglecting Hong Kong people, and some even being alleged of discriminating against Hong Kong people, etc. resulted in deepening conflicts between the people of the Mainland and Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether the Government has made enquiries with the Peking University or the professor himself about the reasons for making the aforesaid remarks; whether it has assessed if such remarks create split between the people of the Mainland and Hong Kong as well as cause the negative effect of provoking anxiety, hatred and even conflicts; if it has, of the outcome; if not, whether an assessment can be conducted as soon as possible;
(b) whether it has studied enhancing the prevention of malicious and defamatory words or deeds against a specific ethnic group through enforcing or amending the existing Race Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 602), in order to maintain social and ethnic harmony; and
(c) whether it will take the initiative to contact the relevant mainland departments and Peking University, and request them to follow up the remarks of the aforesaid professor as well as the responsibilities and consequences which he should bear, in order to allay the discontent of Hong Kong people and the concerns of the foreign media?
(a) and (c) We noticed that the comments made by a Peking University professor on a Mainland webcast television programme had aroused extensive responses in the Hong Kong community. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSAR Government) respects and safeguards the freedom of speech and academic freedom. However, we consider that the relevant comments have gone beyond academic deliberations and there were abusive words and expressions. We certainly cannot endorse or accept the outrageous comments made by that professor. We deeply regret that the incident has aroused unpleasant feelings among Hong Kong residents. As the relevant comments were made by a Mainland university professor in his personal capacity, it is not appropriate for the HKSAR Government to contact the professor direct or approach the Peking University or relevant Mainland authorities to request follow up action.
(b) The Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) protects the rights of individuals against discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of race. The definition of race under the RDO is in line with the definition in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (i.e. race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin). The RDO has been operating smoothly since it came into operation in July 2009. The incident mentioned in the question does not involve racial matters. Hong Kong is a multi-cultural international city and a harmonious community with heterogeneous diversity. Local residents and incoming visitors may have diverse cultural background, ways of living and social systems. It is our common hope that all people can live together in harmony, with diversity and inclusiveness under the common values of mutual understanding and respect.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2012