One in six people in Hong Kong have suffered online sexual harassment while one in eight experienced it in the workplace, according to a survey by Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The EOC conducted telephone interviews with 5,027 people aged between 18 and 64 from March to June last year.

(From left to right) Senior Research Manager Joanne Ip, Acting Head (Policy, Research & Training) Doris Tsui, member Dr. Rizwan Ullah, Executive Director (Operations) of Dr. Ferrick Chu, and Senior Equal Opportunities Officer of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Unit Susana Soo meeting the press on May 12, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

According to the survey, 17.8 per cent of respondents said they had been sexually harassed online in the past two years, with more men than women claiming to have experienced harassment.

The most common forms were receiving indecent photos or videos or sexually suggestive messages online.

The survey also found that 11.8 per cent of respondents reported being sexually harassed at work in the past 24 months. But only one in seven of those people made a formal report or complaint.

Women aged 18 to 34 were more likely to encounter online or workplace sexual harassment, with one in four people in this age group reporting online experiences, and one in five reporting workplace cases.

Recommendations

The commission urged companies, regardless of their size, to develop “a clear corporate anti-sexual harassment policy.”

EOC Acting Head (Policy, Research & Training) Doris Tsui. Photo: Candice Chau.

Companies were also encouraged to set up an effective system to handle complaints and take disciplinary or appropriate actions, and to regularly train staff to be aware of such cases.

The group also urged the government to consider amending the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, so that employers would be legally liable for third-party harassment, such as when a client of a company harasses a member of staff.

The EOC also suggested the Education Bureau explore reforming sexuality education in primary and secondary schools.

Doris Tsui, acting head of policy, research and training, said jurisdictional issues posed a problem.

“The online sphere is still very much jurisdiction-specific, so for example if you join a forum, the server is basically in the UK, we still have those jurisdiction problems which exist in every country. So they’re still trying to amend the laws to catch up what the reality that the victims are facing and experiencing online,” said Tsui.

Rizwan Ullah, member of the Equal Opportunities Commission, meeting the press on May 12, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Tsui recommended that victims notify the service providers.

Rizwan Ullah, a member of the EOC, said that anyone who experienced sexual harassment can also contact the organisation or visit the EOC’s website.

“It’s designated to look at those issue,” said Ullah. “There are resources, FAQs, and they use a victim-centric approach to help the victim in a comfort environment to seek help.”

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.