From the Case of Sex Discrimination to the Ideas of Equality and Equal Opportunities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Equal Opportunities Commission v Director of Education marks an important milestone in the history of Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination movement. Prompted by a decades-old public policy allocating secondary school places to primary six students it believed to be discriminatory against girls, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) successfully challenged the now defunct government practice under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO). Based on this symbolic and educational decision, this chapter will begin by summarising the fact of the case, followed by an analysis of the claims in question and the meaning of sex discrimination. It will then discuss the value of equality, including its various rationales including “formal equality”, “treating like alike”, and “equal opportunities”. It will argue that, despite its universal appeal, equality as a policy justification can be both elusive and politically sensitive. Citing examples from Hong Kong and overseas jurisdictions, this chapter argues that an apparently benign anti-discrimination measure can in some cases generate difficult ethical dilemmas and controversies. Drawing on the plights of ethnic minority students in Hong Kong, this chapter will end with an observation that substantive equality requires proactive measures to help those whose existing disadvantages prevent them from competing fairly in society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthical Dilemmas in Public Policy
Subtitle of host publicationThe Dynamics of Social Values in the East-West Context of Hong Kong
EditorsBetty Yung, Yu Kam Por
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-0437-7
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-0435-3, 978-981-10-9162-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameGovernance and Citizenship in Asia
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISSN (Print)2365-6255


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