Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has defended his decision to appoint pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), despite strong opposition from the LGBTQ community.
“Different departments and I appoint people – including lawmakers – to various public bodies. The government will not decide to appoint or not appoint someone because of their views or positions over certain issues,” Leung said during his last Q&A at the legislature on Thursday.
The remarks came after Chow was heavily criticised for his open opposition to sexual minority rights despite being a member of the watchdog. Earlier this month, Leung re-appointed Chow to the EOC for a two-year term.
EOC Chair Alfred Chan Cheung-ming has said he personally found the choice “very problematic.” He said Monday that he might speak to the government about the appointment system if Chow continues to make statements contrary to the EOC position.
Currently, the chief executive appoints all 15 members and the chair of the equality watchdog. He is not required to explain the choices.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan, a vocal critic of Chow’s appointment, confronted Leung on Thursday: “This is like appointing someone who eats game meat, wears fur and traffics ivory products to a wildlife conservation group. This is ridiculous.”
Lawmaker Ray Chan demands Chief Exec. CY Leung explain his appointment of Holden Chow to equality watchdog. pic.twitter.com/04g6R27jlc
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 1, 2017
Chan asked if Leung made his decision to “repay a favour.” Last month, Chow was revealed to have allowed Leung to edit a document in order to alter the scope of a legislative probe into a controversial payout Leung received from Australian firm UGL.
Saying that there are better choices than Chow from his party DAB – such as lawmaker Elizabeth Quat – Chan said: “So people think there are two possibilities: either you used the appointment to thank Chow for the favour, or you are not sincere about promoting equality by picking someone to obstruct the work of the EOC.”
In response, Leung said Chan’s remarks were “completely unnecessary speculation.”
“The pan-democrats have also obstructed the work of the government and opposed me over many issues. Can I say they oppose me because the government did not appoint them? Your logic goes both ways,” he said.
Chan hit back at Leung: “Hong Kong is lagging behind the world [in same-sex marriage legislation]. You accuse lawmakers of filibustering and obstructing the government’s work. I say CY Leung is the biggest reason for the obstruction of the work on equal rights.”
Last week, 41 civil groups, 19 lawmakers and three political parties signed a joint statement demanding Chow step down from the watchdog.
Chow said in response that his opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage was not the same as discrimination against sexual minorities. “The EOC accepts diverse opinions. I stand by my opinion,” he said.
Established in 1996, the EOC is a statutory body tasked with promoting equality and implementing anti-discrimination laws.