The head of Hong Kong’s equality watchdog told RTHK on Tuesday that the government’s new plans to ease Covid restrictions only for people who have been vaccinated may be discriminatory, even though they’re likely to be legally sound.
Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chairman Ricky Chu told the Hong Kong Today programme that people have already started to file complaints based on allegations of unequal treatment against those who have yet to receive vaccinations – including some who say their jobs are at risk.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam had on Monday announced a raft of measures allowing a phased easing of restrictions for local restaurants and bars – provided that all staff have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Chu told Mike Weeks that vaccination-based discrimination is just as harmful as other kinds of prejudice.
“We have to make it clear to the society that any sort of unequal treatment or discrimination can be dangerous, and it only serve to split the society, and it does nobody any good, particularly in preventing the pandemic and towards the recovery of Hong Kong as a whole,” Chu said.
Asked what the EOC would do if it receives complaints that the government’s vaccination-based plans to ease restrictions would effectively discriminate against people who cannot, or choose not to get inoculated, Chu noted that there are laws governing anti-epidemic measures.
“In a nutshell, if the measures are reasonable, then even though it can be construed as some kind of unequal treatment, but if it is reasonable for curing the pandemic, then it would not violate the law of discrimination,” Chu said.
“So think along the reasonableness line is very important.”
The government has said it will discuss with the catering sector what to do if staff members have legitimate health reasons not to get vaccinated, with Health Secretary Sophia Chan saying officials don’t want to see such people sacked.
Chu said such cases should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“You need to look behind the reasons why those people cannot comply with such a requirement. Is it reasonable to accommodate their needs? What solutions or alternatives can be found to resolve the problem?” he said.
Chu added that labour laws are in place to protect workers’ interests, “and of course if anybody thinks that he or she is subject to some discriminatory treatment which is unreasonable even under the circumstances of preventing the pandemic, then they can always come to us.”