SCMP Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Aids clinic protesters may be sued over abuse


Residents protesting against an Aids clinic near their homes in Kowloon Bay could be sued for discrimination after they abused staff members.
It would be the first legal action against the Richland Garden residents since they began protesting over the 1996 building of the Kowloon Bay Health Centre.
The controversy centred on a clinic for Aids and HIV patients and people suffering from sexually transmitted and skin diseases.
Three or four protesters were identified after more than a year of investigations by the Equal Opportunities Commission.
A staff member from the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Nursing Home has agreed to be the plaintiff. The commission can act on the complainant's behalf even if he or she chooses not to testify in court. But patients have refused to give accounts of the discrimination in public. Workers at the home became targets of abuse, forcing a third of nurses to resign.
Court hearings will start this year unless last-minute conciliation efforts succeed. If convicted under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, an order to stop protest action or a compensation order could be served.
Commission chairwoman Anna Wu Hung-yuk said: "It has been very difficult to pursue the case since the patients, especially the HIV-carriers, were worried they would suffer more."
Movement Against Discrimination vice-chairman Dr John Tse Wing-ling said the residents were "really irritating" and once, while visiting, he was asked whether he was gay or hired prostitutes.