Hong Kong: Int’l school board in equality battle

Published 24/04/2019

The German-Swiss International School in Hong Kong has reneged on plans to suspend voting rights of parents who sit on its board but do not speak German.

The school’s board consists of 13 elected directors from the German Swiss International School Association (which is mainly parents) and 6 non-voting members from the German and Swiss consulates in the city-state.

“It is critical to have a board that is as diverse as the institution”

This year, three Chinese parents who do not speak or write fluent German were elected, but instead of the usual formalities were given the title “pending director”.

The plan was revealed by the South China Morning Post, an independent newspaper in the city. However, soon after the paper contacted the school, it released a statement declaring the language stipulation “outdated”.

Board chairman Roland Mueksch reportedly added the parents were given the “pending” title while the school consulted legal teams.

“My belief is that it is critical to have a board that is as diverse as the institution and the members it seeks to lead and represent. Clearly, articles such as this do not serve the interests of our school community and, most importantly, our children, at this point,” he concluded.

It is unclear if the school would have broken the law, as the Equal Opportunities Commission confirmed language discrimination is not directly outlawed.

“We would have to look at each situation case by case to see if there’s any discrimination because the use of language is not included under the ordinance; however, language used by people is often associated with their race, treatment based on language may discriminate against certain racial groups or may amount to racial harassment,” the Commission said in a statement.

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