The Labour Tribunal has ruled that the actions of a former top official of Hong Kong’s equality watchdog in helping churchgoers lobby against same-sex marriage were in conflict with his position. It stripped him of a disputed HK$867,000 gratuity and ordered him to pay the watchdog’s legal fees.
The Tribunal found that Josiah Chok Kin-ming must pay around HK$9,800 in litigation fees to the EOC, and that the gratuity should be immediately returned to the Commission.
Chok was a former chief officer at the Equal Opportunities Commission, but he was stripped of his role in a review of anti-discrimination laws and deemed ineligible for the gratuity – which is given to commission members upon fulfilment of their contracts – after he spoke at a church forum during a consultation on anti-discrimination laws in 2014.
At the time, Apple Daily reported that Chok spoke against same-sex marriage at the event at his church and distributed sample letters of opposition to the law’s reform. Chok said he was merely expressing his personal beliefs towards marriage while attending the function in a private capacity.
Chok subsequently sued the EOC for the unpaid amount through the Labour Tribunal, which ruled in Chok’s favour in 2015.
The EOC filed an appeal, meaning the case was sent back to the Labour Tribunal and received a retrial on Thursday.
According to Ming Pao, in his verdict the Presiding Officer said that there were limits to his freedom of religion and expression as a public officer, and that Chok should have asked for permission before participating in activities that were in conflict with his role at the EOC.
The Presiding Officer said that Chok’s speech and actions were clearly in conflict with his role, and impacted the trust between the employee and employer, and thus the EOC’s denial of his gratuity was justified.
Chok said outside the court that he planned to appeal, and quoted from the Bible, saying that he submits to God and that God would avenge wrongs.