HKU Equal Opportunity Policy
As set out in the Equal Opportunity Policy (“the Policy”), the University is committed to creating, promoting and maintaining an environment of equality of opportunity for members of the University community, free of any discrimination/harassment. The University does not tolerate behaviour amounting to discrimination or harassment as set out in the Policy.
Workplace Participants in Common Workplace
The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO), Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) and Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) of Hong Kong prohibit sexual harassment and breastfeeding harassment, disability harassment, and racial harassment, respectively, between workplace participants at a workplace where they both work or attend (“common workplace”). The harasser is personally liable under the law for his or her acts of sexual, breastfeeding, disability or racial harassment.
Workplace participants are defined under the law to include employers, employees, principals, contract workers employed by contractors or sub-contractors, interns, and volunteers, etc. In the University’s context, a co-working space user may also be regarded as a workplace participant. Examples of common workplace include:
- an office or laboratory where persons are engaged by the department to do internships, or to do volunteer work for a project
- exhibition space or event venue where staff members, volunteers and contractor’s workers work together
- co-working space on campus where employees from different companies share work facilities
Other Protected Groups
StudentsStudents are protected from sexual, breastfeeding, disability and racial harassment under the anti-discrimination laws. For example, it is unlawful for a sports coach to sexually harass a student of the University.
Providers and users of goods, facilities or servicesThe aforementioned harassments are also prohibited between providers and users of goods, facilities or services. Examples of provision of goods, facilities or services on campus may include sports coaching or mentorship provided to students, and security, cleaning, or catering services provided to users/customers who may be students, staff, or other workplace participants.
What is Sexual Harassment?
There are two types of sexual harassment as defined under the SDO:
Person-to-person sexual harassmentA person makes an unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature to another person, where an objective, reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person being harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. It includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other conduct of a sexual nature, whether physical, verbal or electronic. Examples:
- Inappropriate touching by a coach, which makes a student feel offended and intimidated.
- A volunteer sends an intern at a common workplace pornographic images or text messages on social media, which make him or her feel offended.
- A part-time staff member makes offensive or derogatory remarks about the body of a transgender co-working space user at their common workplace.
Sexually hostile or intimidating environmentAnother form of sexual harassment occurs when a person, alone or together with other persons, engages in conduct of a sexual nature which creates a sexually hostile or intimidating environment for another person. The behaviour need not be directly or consciously targeted at an individual. Examples:
- Display of pornographic pictures or posters at the common workplace
- Sexual or obscene jokes at the common workplace or during sports coaching sessions in the presence of other workplace participants or students
What is Breastfeeding, Disability or Racial Harassment?
Under the relevant anti-discrimination laws, breastfeeding harassment, disability harassment, or racial harassment refers to any unwelcome conduct, respectively:
- on the ground that a woman is breastfeeding, or
- based on the disability of a person or his or her associate, or
- based on the race of a person or his or her associate,
where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person being harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Examples include offensive jokes made to a breastfeeding woman, making crude gestures to mimic a person’s disability, and insulting remarks about a person’s race.
There is another form of breastfeeding harassment or racial harassment: A person, alone or together with other persons, on the ground that a woman is breastfeeding, or on the ground of the race of another person or his or her associate, engages in conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment for the other person. Examples include circulation of offensive comments about breastfeeding in a common workplace, and display of pictures with derogatory images about a workplace participant’s race in a common workplace.
How to Deal with Harassment?
Say “No”Tell the harasser that the behaviour is unwelcome and must be stopped immediately. Don't ignore the behaviour as it might be taken as tacit consent.
Keep a recordWrite down the details of the incidents, including the dates, times, location and witnesses, as well as your reactions and feelings.
Seek advice or assistanceConsult the Equal Opportunity Advisors (EOAs) or the Head of your Department/Unit. They are impartial and will support you to make your own decision on how to resolve the matter, for example, through mediation between you and the respondent. All the information provided will only be disclosed to relevant parties on a need-to-know basis.
Lodge a complaintNotwithstanding the Equal Opportunity Unit’s continuous efforts to raise awareness of anti-harassment among students, staff and other workplace participants, it is recognised that problems may still arise. Complaints involving workplace participants or service providers who are not HKU employees may be handled under the “Whistle-blowing” Procedures of the University, where applicable.
Retaliation against complainants and witnesses are prohibited by the Equal Opportunity Policy and the anti-discrimination laws. No action will be taken if a complaint which proves to be unfounded is judged to have been made in good faith.
You may also lodge a complaint directly with the Equal Opportunities Commission of Hong Kong, or take civil action at the District Court; and in potential criminal cases such as indecent assault or rape, make a report to the police.
Equal Opportunity Advisors (EOAs)
EOAs serve as the first contact point in the Department/Unit/Hall/College to assist students, staff and other workplace participants, and advise on equal opportunity-related matters. Find your EOA from the EOU webpage.
HKU Equal Opportunity Unit (EOU)
Security Control Centre
If you are worried about your personal safety on campus, call the Security Control Centre (24-hour) at 3917 2882.
Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) of Hong Kong
Further Information at the EOC’s online Resource Centre:
- Leaflet on “Protection from Sexual, Disability and Racial Harassment in Common Workplaces”
- Anti-Sexual Harassment Resources
January 2022 (updated)