Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Chairperson Alfred Chan Cheung-ming has expressed support for LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and stated that he believed it reasonable to launch a public consultation on the subject in a year’s time.

Chan attended an event on Sunday in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which falls on May 17. It was the first time he has appeared at an LGBT-related occasion since assuming office in April.

alfred chan
Alfred Chan at the LGBT event at Causeway Bay. Photo: Dan Garrett.

The event was organised by various LGBT organisations such as Rainbow of Hong Kong, Gay Harmony and Women Coalition of HKSAR. The theme was “exorcise the homophobic ignorant ghosts”, and the groups have collected views from over 60 LGBT groups to submit to Chan, Stand News reported.

The new head of the equality watchdog said that in his early days in office he had been unable to communicate his views in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, hence he hoped to clarify his stance at the event. He also said that the report EOC submitted to the government – which had been commissioned under his predecessor, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok – had already expressed a need for legislation, but there were so far no plans on how to do this.

lgbt event
Photo: Dan Garrett.

Chan said that the main aim of the four existing anti-discrimination ordinances was to protect the rights of minorities and he believed that a law against LGBT discrimination would not infringe upon the freedoms of other members of the public, RTHK reported.

See also: Outgoing equality commissioner says successor is ‘mistaken’ in saying current laws can protect sexual minorities

Chan also said that discrimination stems from ignorance, and it was also ignorance that led people to believe that equal opportunities for sexual minorities means the destruction of traditional family values. “If we turn this ignorance into being informed, then discrimination also turns into mutual respect.” He agreed that the government should step up efforts to educate the public and legislate against discrimination towards sexual minorities as soon as possible.

lgbt event flyers
Flyers seen at the event.

Responding to LGBT groups’ wishes to launch a public consultation in a year, Chan said the demand was reasonable. He added that there was a need for the next Chief Executive to settle into his position before commencing any large scale consultation work.

However, Chan also said that he had met with groups opposed to the legislation previously and do not rule out taking part in their events, saying that it was important for the Equal Opportunities Commission to allow “both sides be heard”.

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.