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I. Introduction to the existing anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong

Before introducing Hong Kong's existing anti-discrimination ordinances, it will be helpful for you to have a general idea of what is considered to constitute discrimination in Hong Kong.

"Direct discrimination" occurs when a person is treated less favorably than another person of the opposite sex, with a different marital status, who is not pregnant, who does not have to take care of his/her child, or who does not suffer mental/physical disability, or of different race.

In order to prove discrimination, there must be a comparison of treatment. For example, discrimination may occur if you are rejected for a job because the employer wants to appoint a person of the opposite sex (with similar working experience and educational background). Another example of direct discrimination is that you are single and pregnant but your employer says that maternity benefits only available to those employees who are legally married.

"Indirect discrimination" occurs when a condition or requirement, which is not justifiable, is applied to everyone, but in practice it adversely affects persons of a particular sex or marital status, those who have to take care of their children, those who are pregnant, or those who have mental/physical disabilities, or those on the basis of his/her race. Example: You are not able to work overtime because you are pregnant. Your employer penalizes you for not working overtime, but your employer cannot prove that the overtime requirement is necessary for all employees.

A person (or company) who directly or indirectly discriminates against another person may incur legal liabilities.

The Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance ( Cap. 383 ) generally stipulates that all persons are equal before the law and the law shall prohibit any discrimination on any ground. This principle is materialized through the enactment of the following four ordinances:

The Sex Discrimination Ordinance ("SDO") and the Disability Discrimination Ordinance ("DDO") were implemented in two phases. The non-employment related provisions came into effect on 20 September 1996. The remaining employment related provisions were brought into force on 20 December 1996.

It is unlawful under the SDO to discriminate against or harass a person on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy in the following areas of activity:

  • employment;
  • education;
  • provision of goods, services or facilities;
  • disposal or management of premises;
  • eligibility to vote for and to be elected or appointed to advisory bodies;
  • participation in clubs;
  • activities of the Government;
  • practising as barristers (any offer of pupilage and training provided to barristers).

Under the DDO , it is unlawful to discriminate against, harass or vilify a person with a disability in public, or discriminate or harass a person on the grounds of disability in the following areas of activity:

  • employment;
  • education;
  • provision of goods, services and facilities;
  • access to premises;
  • disposal or management of premises;
  • participation in clubs and sporting activities;
  • activities of the Government;
  • practising as barristers (any offer of pupilage and training provided to barristers).

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person who has "family status". "Family status" generally means the status of having responsibility for the care of an immediate family member. An "immediate family member", in relation to a person, means someone who is related to the person concerned by blood, marriage, adoption or affinity. The areas of activity for which a person may lodge a complaint under the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance ("FSDO") are the same as those under the SDO .

Under the Race Discrimination Ordinance , it is unlawful to discriminate, harass or vilify a person on the ground of his/her race in the following areas of activity:

  • employment;
  • education;
  • provision of goods, facilities or services;
  • disposal or management of premises;
  • eligibility to vote for and to stand for election to public bodies, etc;
  • offering of a pupilage or tenancy in a barrister's chambers;
  • participation in clubs.
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