More than half of the general public in Hong Kong believe discrimination against residency status and race is “prevalent” in the city, according to a survey by the local equality watchdog.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on Thursday published results from the Equal Opportunities Awareness Survey 2021, which interviewed 1,501 people aged 15 or above over the phone between February and April.

The Equal Opportunities Commission meets the press on November 11, 2021 to announce the findings of their Equal Opportunities Awareness Survey 2021. Photo: Equal Opportunities Commission.

Among the respondents, 55.2 per cent said that prejudice against people’s residency status was prevalent, while 51.5 per cent said race discrimination was widespread in Hong Kong.

The results stemmed from the city’s lack of protections from discrimination on the grounds of nationality and citizenship, the EOC said. It urged the government to improve the Race Discrimination Ordinance to better protect mainland residents and new immigrants.

“The EOC has conducted an internal study to explore how to strengthen the protection of anti-discrimination laws to deal with discrimination, harassment and vilification against mainland residents and new immigrants in Hong Kong,” EOC chairman Ricky Chu said, adding they have submitted their report to the government.

Anti-discrimination awareness

The general public in Hong Kong scored 60.7 out of 100 in their “anti-discrimination attitude.” meaning they had a “positive attitude” towards equal opportunities, the watchdog said. Over 60 per cent of the interviewees were aware of local legislation that outlaws discrimination against disability, race and sex, but few knew the existing laws do not cover sex orientation and age discrimination.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair. File photo: May James/HKFP.

They survey also found an increase in “perceived prevalence” of age discrimination in Hong Kong over the past decade – 49.9 per cent recorded in the 2021 study compared to 41 per cent in the 2012 questionnaire.

One in eight respondents said they experienced discrimination or harassment over the past year before they were surveyed. More than half experienced age discrimination, followed by sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

The watchdog said around 90 per cent of the interviewees believed the EOC should attach “high importance” to combating sexual harassment and discrimination against disability in their forthcoming work.

The statutory body currently has an anti-sexual harassment unit – established in November last year – and an anti-sexual harassment hotline. Chu pledged: “We will continue to put effort into this area in order to meet public’s needs.”

Hong Kong does not have any laws which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, despite legislative debates dating back to the 1990s.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.