Activists slam `scare tactics’ over race laws
<!– Human rights activists have accused the government of conducting a campaign of misinformation in an attempt to run down the controversial anti-discrimination law.
//–> They say officials are using extreme scenarios to scare the public about the new legilsation which was passed unanimously in the Legislative Council on Thursday after more than a decade of fierce debate.Human rights activists have accused the government of conducting a campaign of misinformation in an attempt to run down the controversial anti-discrimination law.Law Yuk-kai, director of the Human Rights Monitor, said officials are generating potential difficulties, particularly relating to the clause concerning language discrimination.”The government have given the impression that even street hawkers may be sued for not providing translations after the new law is implemented. Yet the truth is that even body language would suffice,” Law said.
He added activists have spent 11 years fighting to get the bill drafted and passed and the government should not now burden the public with exaggerated negative comments. The Race Discrimination Bill was plunged into controversy over a clause which states that all public and private organizations have a legal obligation to provide translation services to ethnic minorities. “Language assistance can be implemented step by step. We are not asking hospitals to provide translations for 100 languages tomorrow,” Law said. However some popular languages, such as Hindi and Nepalese, should be introduced to key services as soon as possible.”He also called for an amendment covering all government bodies, including the police. He said it is important for the Equal Opportunities Commission to complete the code of practice to iron out gray areas of the bill. Undersecretary for constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said it will take nine months for the commission to draft the code of practice.
He denied that the anti-racism law failed to provide equal education opportunities for ethnic minorities. Hong Kong Unison director Fermi Wong Wai-fan said she is disappointed by the new law. “The government has failed to address the needs of foreign children and it has fundamentally undermined learning opportunities for ethnic minorities,” Wong said. “It is shameful that Hong Kong, as an international city, has turned away an equal education environment for children.” The Hospital Authority said it would give priority to providing translation services for those from Southeast Asia at hospitals.