The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chair Alfred Chan Cheung-ming has said that he may speak to the government if pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow continues to make anti-LGBT remarks despite being a member.
“The next step may be to discuss with the government the EOC appointment procedure and system, so as to ensure that [members] will understand the position of the EOC and its role as a watchdog,” Chan said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday.
The comment came after Chow was heavily criticised for his open opposition to sexual minority rights despite becoming a member of the watchdog. Earlier this month, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying re-appointed Chow to the EOC for a two-year term.
Critics have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the EOC appointment system. The chief executive appoints all 15 members and the chair of the EOC. They are not required to explain their choice.
On Friday, Chan were pressed by activists to comment on Chow’s membership at the watchdog. Chan replied: “Personally, I found it very problematic.”
He elaborated on his view during Monday’s radio show: “I have talked to Chow at least twice about observing collective responsibility. It will embarrass everyone on the EOC if a member openly contradicts the collective position. Members should be careful with their words.”
“Diversity of opinions is a good thing, but we hope that members will hold the same attitude on matters that the EOC has internally discussed and collectively made a decision on.”
The decision refers to the EOC’s endorsement last January of a report on legislating against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. It asked the government to consider consulting the public on the matter.
Chan said EOC members should be committed to protecting sexual minority rights. “I thought that was clear to the government and to the public,” he said.
He added that he will be talking to Chow again in the coming days.
In response, Chow said on Friday that his recent statements against the legalisation of same-sex marriage did not equal discrimination against sexual minorities.
“I agree with the EOC that sexual minorities should not be discriminated against at the workplace. Meanwhile, I personally support the protection of family values and marriage between a man and a woman,” he said.
“The EOC accepts diverse opinions. I stand by my opinion. I hope people understand that marriage is not only an individual right, but it will also affect our social system.”
Last week, 41 civil groups, 19 lawmakers and three political parties signed a joint statement demanding Chow step down from the watchdog.
The lawmaker is also embroiled in a scandal whereby he was found to have allowed Leung Chun-ying to edit a document in order to alter the scope of a legislative investigation into a controversial payout Leung received from Australian firm UGL.
Established in 1996, the EOC is a statutory body tasked with promoting equality and implementing anti-discrimination laws.