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Official was stripped of role in anti-discrimination review after helping church group oppose reform of laws
PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 2:58pm
Jennifer Ngo firstname.lastname@example.org
A top official at the equality watchdog who helped members of his church to oppose reform of anti-discrimination laws has damaged the credibility of the body, its chairman said.
Josiah Chok Kin-ming was stripped of his role in a review of the laws after it was reported that he organised members of his church to make submissions to the consultation to counter those by gay-rights supporters.
The consultation is being conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
“The credibility of the EOC will more or less be affected,” said its chairperson Dr York Chow Yat-ngok on Friday.
Chok has not been fired and an internal EOC investigation is ongoing.
“[Chok’s] responsibility was to explain and answer questions at consultation sessions and not to analyse collected suggestions. Other colleagues have taken over his work,” said Chow.
The public consultation will not be affected, he said. EOC officials should refrain from actions which are against the commission’s principles and might adversely affect public perception of the watchdog, Chow added.
Earlier this week Apple Daily revealed that Chok had spoken at a church forum and handed out sample letters of opposition to reform.
The reports left gay rights groups outraged, and one called on Chok to quit.
The EOC last month launched a three-month consultation on proposals to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of marital and residency status.
It did not include legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation – subject to a separate study in which Chok is not involved – though gay rights groups had made submissions in support of some of the proposals.
Chok reportedly told churchgoers that the draft laws discriminated against church groups. He later told reporters his comments were his own opinion and did not conflict with his role at the EOC.
Commission convenor Dr John Tse Wing-ling said Chok’s behaviour was “inappropriate” and that there was an obvious conflict of interest.
“A top official’s job is to collect public opinion, not to create and to organise opinions,” Tse said.
Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said she would raise the matter at the Legislative Council’s constitutional affairs committee.
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