The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has been ordered by the Labour Tribunal on Monday to pay HK$867,000, a gratuity owed to former employee Josiah Chok Kin-ming, who had asked churchgoers to lobby against gay rights during last year’s consultation on the review of anti-discrimination laws.
The Equality watchdog launched a public consultation on “de facto marriage relationships” last year to look into ways to protect the rights of same-sex couples, a project Chok was put in charge of. Apple Daily then revealed that Chok attended a discussion forum on the issue at the Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong last August during the consultation period, in which he campaigned among churchgoers, asking them to send a petition to the EOC to defeat the voices of gay rights activists.
The EOC deemed Chok ineligible for his gratuity, being of the view that he had breached the internal Code of Conduct. It also launched an internal investigation into the matter. Chok then sued for the unpaid cash through the Labour Tribunal.
The judge said that under the employment contract Chok was entitled to the gratuity as long as he fulfilled a term of three years, regardless of whether or not his job performance was satisfactory, Stand News reported. The judge also said that Chok attended the church forum during his spare time and that his freedom of speech is protected under the Basic Law. The court ruled in favour of Chok and ordered the EOC to pay the wages owed, as well as an additional HK$916 in hearing fees.
Chok thanked god after the ruling and said that the judgment reflected the carelessness and inadequacy of EOC’s investigation, which was an act of oppression targeted towards his identity as a Christian, Apple Daily reported. He also called for the resignation of EOC Chairperson York Chow Yat-ngok and said that the equality watchdog should not be dominated by just one voice or held hostage by one person.
The EOC said that it would study the Labour Tribunal’s judgment and decide what to do next. Chok said that if the EOC lodged an appeal, it would be an abuse of public funds and that as a citizen he would persist till the end, as he believes that justice will prevail. He also said that he will be complaining to the Privacy Commissioner with regards to his speech to Christians having been secretly taped.
Correction (November 4 2015): An earlier version of this article stated that Chok’s contract was not renewed subsequent to his actions at the church forum. The EOC clarified that the decision not to renew the contract was made prior to the church forum and was not a result of it.