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EOC asked to investigate discrimination linked to coronavirus outbreak

26 February 2020

By The SUN
 
Priscilla Leung and ex-OEC officer Chok Kin ming announce plan to file discrimination case with EOC (RTHK photo)

A pro-Beijing lawmaker has announced that she will ask the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to look into cases of alleged discrimination against people linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

Priscilla Leung, from the Business and Professionals Alliance, said today, Feb. 25, that she has received complaints from people who have faced abuse, either directly or online, because they have been linked to the spread of Covid-19. These include a man under home quarantine and some police officers and their families.

She also singled out people who had joined protests against plans to set up quarantine sites in their neighborhood, saying they might have breached anti-discrimination laws.

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The Mission for Migrant Workers, on the other hand, has also issued a statement calling on the government to ensure foreign domestic workers are not “discriminated, isolated and excluded in the fight against the new virus.”

The Mission’s call reflects complaints made by several Filipino domestic workers online about how their employers have stopped them from going out on their rest day, as if they are likely to bring the virus into their homes.

Migrant groups have urged the government to include them in the effort to fight the spread of Covid-19
Some FDWs who insisted on taking their day off have complained about being sprayed thoroughly with antiseptic on their return home, and in at least one case, being told to throw away the clothes she had worn.

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Leung called for tolerance among the public, and said her group will choose a number of cases involving discriminatory acts that they will ask the OEC to act on.

"The whole purpose, first of all, is to do public education by following up the necessary cases which we consider to be more serious. We'll take up seven to eight cases. We may not target the public, because I think many of the public may not be aware of the law," Leung said.

"We want to take action over some of the special cases which obviously have a high chance of having breached the Disability Discrimination Ordinance."

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Several protests have been staged across Hong Kong over plans to build quarantine centres and special clinics for coronavirus patients, with some sites vandalized.

Last month, a building in Fanling was even set on fire by protesters opposed to a government plan to use empty flats there to quarantine people.

The EOC has called on the protesters to be more reasonable and compassionate toward those who need to be isolated.

The government agency said the hostility would only delay help for those who might be infected and undercut efforts to bring the epidemic under control.

“There is a great deal of concern and apprehension surrounding the epidemic, and that is completely understandable. However, our city is now at the critical juncture of trying to pre-empt a community-wide outbreak. If we all harbour a NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality and object to having the facilities built in our neighbourhoods, the epidemic will likely spiral out of control, and eventually the whole society and all of us will have to suffer the consequences,” said EOC chairperson Ricky Chu Man-kin.

“The EOC is especially concerned about the potential stigma that might be inflicted on users of the facilities and other persons affected by the virus amid the opposition. At its worst, it can deter infected persons from disclosing their condition, receiving quarantine inspection or simply visiting a doctor,” he added.

Chu, however, urged the government to step up efforts to communicate the purpose and operations of the said facilities, saying the resistance could just be the result of a misunderstanding and misapprehension.
This building being disinfected by health workers could be a target for discrimination

The EOC has also called on business establishments to stop turning away customers from mainland China and putting up notices saying they are not welcome.

“The EOC appeals to the public to refrain from derogatory, insulting or vilifying language and any discriminatory acts against members of a particular race or ethnic group,” said the statement.

Under the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO), it is unlawful for any person or organisation to treat someone less favorably on the ground of race, such as by refusing to provide goods, services or facilities.

In addition, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) outlaws discrimination, harassment and vilification based on disability, including being infected with a virus that could cause disease.

Under the anti-discrimination ordinances, the EOC has the power to investigate complaints, including interviewing the parties concerned so the situation could be corrected, and the underlying motives for the discriminatory practice weeded out.


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