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Joint-NGOs Declaration on the Unjust Dismissal of Patrick Yu

Chung-yin director (Operations) by the

Equal Opportunities Commission

press conf

For immediate release

4 November


We, a group of NGOs committed to defend equal opportunities and human rights.  We express our grave concern over the recent dismissal of Mr. Patrick Yu Chung-yin, director of operations designate of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), by the Commission’s chairperson Mr. Michael Wong Kin-chow. We also take note with serious concern over allegations directed at Mr. Wong over double benefits, credibility and integrity.  Not only has the recent course of events seriously damaged the credibility of the EOC, it has also seriously put in doubt in the minds of the public whether Mr. Wong is suitable to remain to be the chair of the EOC at all.

We would like to stress that as a statutory institution aiming at protecting human rights and combating discrimination, the EOC should uphold the principles of justice, transparency and accountability in its operations. To this date, Mr. Wong has failed to clarify the incident and explain his position in detail openly to non-governmental organisations and the general public. An analysis on the media repertory suggests the following four excuses have been produced for the dismissal:

  1. Mr. Yu was recruited by EOC’s former Chair Ms. Anna Wu Hong-yuk, which bypassed Mr. Wong;
  2. Yu’s interview by the SCMP, before he reported to duty, went beyond his authority or scope of responsibility;
  3. The duty of the director of operations is to handle complaints and conduct mediation and hence requiring no human rights specialist;
  4. The dismissal can help conserve the Commission’s resources.

We have the following responses to the above claims:

  1. The recruitment for a Director (operations) for the EOC began in March 2003. While May saw the recruitment of Mr. Yu, the nomination of the new Chair was publicized as late as 2 July 2003.  Mr. Yu was recruited before the new Chair, who was then not yet revealed. Therefore to say that “(the) recruitment bypassed the new Chair” is sheer nonsense.
  2. The SCMP interview was organized by the Commission, when Mr. Yu said he’d assist local legislation against racial discrimination with his expertise if necessary. Such contents indeed show nothing about authority-surpassing or inappropriate. They should not be taken as grounds for dismissal.
  3. Equal rights are a critical component of the two International Human Rights Covenants, so arranged to avoid any possible harm and unfair treatment as a result of discriminatory acts. The two Covenants require the establishment of complaint and mediation mechanisms to provide assistance to the victims. Moreover, as noted in the 3 local ordinances on equal opportunities, the handling of complaints and mediation do form part of the Commission’s statutory obligations.  Human rights specialist equipped with years of experience in promulgating equal rights, Mr. Yu is definitely an asset in the promotion of local equal rights and the enforcement of the Commission’s statutory obligations. After all, the Commission is to protect the equal opportunities of all.  To this end, not only Yu but all members and staff of the Commission should possess ample knowledge on the concepts of equal rights. The failure, even refusal, of the current EOC chair to effectively utilize Yu’s expertise is barely convincing.
  4. We remain incredulous also to the claim that the dismissal of Mr. Yu will help the EOC and the government to economize. Should the intention to save public money exist, Mr. Wong should not have demanded double benefits for himself. Nor should he dismiss Yu to incur the compensation and risk expensive litigation. The double standard of Mr. Wong is unjustifiable. Not to mention the director (operations) was a post created by combining 2 other positions with the intention to save.
  5. The EOC chair has failed to account for his decision to dismiss Yu or to give Yu a fair chance to defend himself.  This is completely against the mission and the principle of justice and equal rights always advocated by EOC.

According to the media coverage, EOC members partook in its September meeting still uninformed neither of Yu’s dismissal which had practically been made nor of the complaint letter from Yu’s lawyer then already in the hand of Mr. Wong.  To the members mind, the meeting was set for discussing the matter. Given so, members’ subsequent move to authorize the chairperson with full power to handle the matter could have been misled and hence, should not be used to justify the dismissal.  Quite on the contrary, it simply drew questions to the integrity of the EOC chair.  
Many of the complaints brought to the EOC are related to employment issues. The recent act of the EOC chair has set a very bad example to the employers in Hong Kong.  A wrong message is sent as if one can easily sack an employee basing on one’s likes and dislikes.  This is a gross violation to labour rights.  Mr. Wong has made it difficult for us to believe the EOC under his leadership can justly defend our equal rights and our rights not to be discriminated.

Mr. Wong’s ignorance about human rights, his lack of concern on labour rights and his irresponsible remarks have amounted to grave impairment to the credibility of the EOC.  In response to his ways and style of handling the issue, we express our deep regret and our condemnation!

A retired judge, Mr. Wong is looked upon to as more righteous, more impartial and incorruptible than many of us.  However, the course of events has revealed o us a completely different picture. His readiness to compromise public interests for personal gains, his lack of sense of justice and accountability all render him inapt to continue as head of the EOC.

For this, we urge that:
1.  In order to halt further damage to the reputation of EOC, Mr. Michael Wong Kin-chow should resign from his post as chairperson of the organization.

2.  Should Mr. Wong be unwilling to resign, Mr. Tung Chee-hua, the Chief Executive, should suspend him until a thorough inquiry is completed and further decisions on the matter can be made.
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3.  Whether Mr. Wong resign or not should not impede in any way the setting up of a select committee in the Legislative Council to:

  1. Inquire the allegations directed at Mr. Wong, including those raised in concern with his integrity and credibility and those with regard to his decision to dismiss Mr. Patrick Yu Chun-yin as director of operations. Also to be examined is whether Mr. Wong has been assigned with any unaired task in his appointment as the head of EOC.
  2. Assess the problems regarding, and recommend means of mending, any structural defects or malfunctioning in EOC as exposed in the current event.
  3. Recommend to the Chief Executive Mr. Tung Chee-hua, basing on the results of the investigations and assessment, and in accordance with the highest standard of integrity required for the head of EOC and for judiciary personnel, as to what to do regarding Mr. Wong’s appointment.  Should the select committee question the credibility of Mr. Wong or for any other reasons, recommend that his duties be discharged, the Chief Executive should act accordingly. (We however would like to stress that should needs arise for the Chief Executive to reprimand the personnel of any independent statutory institutions or to discharge their duties, recommendations of the select committee should be followed to avoid any possible abuse of power which, in its turn can damage the future independence of the statutory institutions.)
  4. Evaluate and recommend on the formation and functioning of EOC basing on the Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (also known as the Paris Principles) in order to uphold the independence and plurality of EOC regarding the principles and methods used in the selection, terms and appointment of its chairperson and employment of staff.  With the view that improvement in the policies and functioning of the EOC will help maintain fairness, impartiality and high level of transparency, we believe mechanisms should be set up to equip the EOC with extensive power and adequate financial resources, and to ensure its being safeguarded from government “disciplining” or intervention .

4.   We understand that EOC will hold a meeting on Nov 5 to discuss this matter and we would like to point out it is the Commission’s responsibility to inform the public in advance about the agenda, documents and materials in discussion.  In order that accountability of EOC can be checked and that public confidence in it can be regained, we suggest the meeting be made open for the media to cover and for members of the public to audit.   We also call upon the members of the EOC not to conceal faults or support any injustice, act of which will simply place the Commission at a wrongful position, damaging further the confidence, respect and aspiration the public have in it.

5.   It is also our understanding that the Home Affairs Panel of the Legislative Council will meet for the same matter on November 7.  The Panel should ensure that both present and former chairpersons, members, those involved as well as all individuals and organizations that can provide help and information be given fair chance to speak and to be questioned in the meeting.  The Panel should also ask the EOC to submit all proof and evidence in concern, including unabridged tapes of the meetings in question (we understand that EOC seldom pen-note meetings in great details - tapes are therefore of prime significance for the case), all meeting minutes, documents, correspondence, records of phone conversations as well as any other relevant information deemed useful in clarifying doubts and confusions.  The Panel should also support the call for setting up a select committee in LegCo to justly, fairly and openly investigate into, evaluate and recommend upon the issues at stake.

6.   The current incident has exposed serious defects in the mechanism of hiring and firing of personnel in the statutory and advisory bodies.  Also put into question now are their structures, functioning as well as their accountability.  We strongly urge that the government officially accept and implement the Paris Principles.  To start with, a thorough review should be conducted to reassess and improve the appointing system, the operation and public accountability of all statutory and advisory bodies for the sake of their credibility and legitimacy.  It is significant that in their roles as independent watchdogs to uphold human rights and monitor government practices, statutory and public organizations such as the EOC, Ombudsmen, Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and Independent Police Complaints Council should be able to live up to the standards set forth by the Paris Principle in all and every single aspect.

Co-signatories:

April Fifth Action Group
Asian Human Rights Commission
Association for the Advancement of Feminism
Association for the Survivors of Women Abuse (Kwan Fook)
Christians for Hong Kong Society
Broad Alliance to Rescue Dr. Wang Bingzhang
Citizens Party
Co-federation of Trade Union
Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee
Hong Kong Christian Institute
Hong Kong Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
Hong Kong Policy Viewers
Hong Kong Women Christian's Council
Hong Kong Women Workers Association
Human Rights Commission Task Force, Civil Human Rights Front
Human Rights in China, Hong Kong Office
Movement Against Discrimination
Neighbourhood & Workers' Service Centre.
Pioneer
Power for Democracy
Social Workers General Trade Union
Society for Community Organisation
Student Christian Movement of Hong Kong
Student Union, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Frontier
Unison Hong Kong
Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities
Zi Teng

press conf 2
joint-NGOs Press conference (4th Nov, 2003)