Outgoing Equal Opportunities Commission Chairperson York Chow Yat-ngok has said in an interview on his last day in office that his successor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming is mistaken in believing that the current laws are sufficient to protect sexual minorities from discrimination.

In an interview with Ming Pao on Tuesday, Chan said that the current laws were enough to protect the rights of sexual minorities. “If a sexual minority is being publicly insulted, this kind of behaviour could constitute an offence,” he said.

Gay Pride Hong Kong 2015. Photo: Dan Garrett.

On the topic of sexual orientation discrimination and age discrimination, he said that legislation should be “the last resort” which he would go to only when he had tried all other methods. His comments have been criticised by lawmakers such as the Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan and People Power’s Ray Chan Chi-chuen for being ignorant.

In response, Chow said on Thursday morning, “I’ve already made it clear that the current laws are insufficient to protect sexual minorities against discrimination.”

During Chow’s term, the EOC released the findings of the Study on Legislation against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status, which found that the majority of Hongkongers now support anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people. “I have a feeling that he has not read our report… he needs to spend some time to understand the work we’re doing,” Chow said.

York Chow (left) and Chan Cheung-ming (right). Photo: Stand News.

Chow also said that the equality watchdog has done thorough research on the topic, and that he had met with Chan on Wednesday to explain the issue, Stand News reported.

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“He isn’t in office yet, so give him some space to understand more,” Chow said. Chow said that it was he himself who appointed Chan as the Vice-president of the Elderly Commission around a decade ago, and that he knew him well, RTHK reported. “He definitely has knowledge of issues in society, so I think he’s a suitable candidate… don’t jump to conclusions.”

Chow said that the equality commission’s work was steered by the whole EOC and not him alone, when asked whether its stance would change when headed by a new chairman. Chan’s term will begin on April 11.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.