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Hong Kong’s Bill on Race Discrimination bullies people, civil society says

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Civil society organisations in Hong Kong sees the Race Discrimination Bill of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as being “very unsatisfactory”. The present draft does not apply to acts of government officials.
(Hong Kong) Civil society organisations in Hong Kong see the Race Discrimination Bill of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as being “very unsatisfactory”. The present draft does not apply to acts of government officials.

Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor and other civil society organisations presented a briefing on the bill to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial (CERD) in August 2007 and 3 March 2008 respectively.

The bill has been scrutinised by the Legislative Council Bills Committee since early 2007 up to June 2008.

According to the organisations, the present draft of the bill does not apply to the government officials: the draft states, “this Ordinance applies to an act done by or for the for the purpose of the Government that is of kind of similar to an act done by a private person” (Clause 3). If passed as it is, the government will be exempted from being accused of discrimination cases and compensation.

The bill also reduced the definition of race discrimination on descent by excluding those who newly arrived from the mainland China in protection mechanism of discrimination (Clause 8). The civil society is concerned of this application, as many from the mainland have been subjected to the “serious discrimination and negative stereotyping in Hong Kong”.

The civil society also pointed out that in public areas, it has become common to find hypothetical advertisement such as “This school does not admit children with South African citizenship”, “Wanted, Accountant: Must have lived in Hong Kong for at least 20 years” or “Only persons with American passports may enter this bar”. Under the present draft, these preferences based on the ground of nationality, citizenship or length of residence in Hong Kong are not considered as direct or indirect discrimination.

The bill also excludes the use of language as a ground for racial discrimination, since the bill does not protect the human rights of people who do not speak Chinese, spoken by the predominant population of Hong Kong. It also lacks clauses on the protection of the discrimination on the grounds of religion and immigrant status, the organisations say.

The organisations called on Hong Kong authorities to comply with the international standards as stipulated in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination”.

A letter from the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to Mr. Li Baodong, China’s representative to the UN in Geneva, on 7 March, it says that the Committee expects the government of China to issue a document, which includes a “detailed section” of the bill.

The letter also requests the government to include issues of the “narrow definition of indirect discrimination in the Bill” and other issues, which echo the civil society’s concerns.