By Raphael Blet
Ethnic minorities are Hong Kongers, and only by assuming this fact can we achieve harmomy.
In recent years, debates concerning ethnic minorities and their role in our society have been ongoing.
Every now and then, it is common to read articles and hear media statements from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in regards to ethnic minorities and possible ways to include them in our society.
Nevertheless, this debate has only been dominated by talk, not actions.
If actions were taken, they were either limited or temporary ones.
So then, how can ethnic minorities be fully part of our society?
What effective measures can we take to create cohesion?
First off, we should stop constantly referring to them as ‘minorities’, this is not about political correctness, but common sense.
In Hong Kong, those referred to as ‘ethnic minorities’ are mostly Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese and other persons of Asian origins.
As around 92 per cent of Hong Kong’s population consists of ethnic Chinese, the territory’s non-ethnic Chinese population is undeniably smaller than the majority.
Thus, it is technically accurate to label them as ‘minorities’ given that their proportion is significantly lower than the majority.
However – in Hong Kong – commonly used words are usually a reflection of the city’s inequalities.
Technically speaking, all non-Chinese people living in the city should be referred as ‘minorities’ given that their races, cultures and native languages differ from the majority.
Nevertheless, Caucasians as well as foreigners holding important positions are instead called ‘expatriates’.
This makes even less sense as the so called ‘expatriates’ are minorities within the minority.
We should not forget that – despite being ethnic minorities – the majority of Nepalese, Indians, Pakistanis and other non-Ethnic Chinese are Hong Kong citizens too.
Many of them are fluent in both English and Cantonese, shortening the differences only to their cultural background.
As previously said, this is not about political correctness.
While South Asians and East Asians are ethnic minorities due to racial factors, they are technically Hong Kongers as they were born and raised in the territory, thus giving them the same rights as all other members of the community.
Yet, many feel that they are being separated if not segregated (e.g. in schools) by the administrative system.
Singapore is a great example of this problem.
One of Singapore’s core principles is racial harmony, their pledge starting as follows: ‘We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people. Regardless of race, language or religion…’
While Singapore’s Chinese population constitutes of around 76 per cent of the total population, the rest of the population, which is composed mainly of Malays and Indians is equally and fairly represented.
In Singapore, Malays and Indians are not called ‘ethnic minorities’ but instead, all Singapore citizens are seen as Singaporeans regardless of whether they constitute a demographic minority or majority.
Not only were Malays and Indians superficially recognized by simple terms but many of them are holding important position within the government.
Singapore’s first President, Yusof bin Ishak was an ethnic Malay.
Singapore’s sixth President, the late S.R. Nathan who served until 2011 was a Singaporean of Tamil Indian origins.
The current Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam is also ethnically Indian.
Unfortunately, ethnic minorities in Hong Kong have no democratic representation as there has so far never been a legislator issued from an ethnic minority background.
In Hong Kong, Gurkhas have been contributing to the community for many years which they still do today.
However, they have been left aside by the public service, obliging them to apply for short term jobs while their professional skills would be of great use to the public.
While the number of Nepalese in the Hong Kong disciplined service is low (due to the lack of opportunities and language restrictions), the Singapore Police Force has equipped itself with a prestigious unit known as the Gurkha Contingent which is comprised of 2000 men who are mostly non-Singaporeans.
Through their knowledge, this unit strongly contributes to Singapore’s security.
Hong Kong might consider to elaborate a similar mechanism.
The Education system plays an important role
Schools play an important role in this issue.
Indeed, non-Chinese students are de-facto segregated from their fellow native Chinese speaking friends.
The Education Bureau’s (EDB) policies are partly responsible.
Instead of designing particular schools for particular groups, the EDB’s main goal should be to emphasize togetherness so that both Chinese and non-Chinese students can learn from each other and share their experiences.
Such reciprocity would be mutually beneficial and would avoid unnecessary stereotyping of one another.
Yet, only the contrary seems to prevail.
So what has been done in Hong Kong so far?
In recent years, some local figures including some legislators have shown their willingness to build cohesion amongst Hong Kong people, Claudia Mo being a great example.
Numerous NGO’s are pressing the government to take measures which would allow more ‘minorities’ to join the civil service.
Yet, we have to assume that some government departments took some important steps in including non-ethnic Chinese (NEC’s) despite the many restrictions imposed by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB).
The Hong Kong Police Force has made some symbolic yet noticeable progress in the past five years.
In 2012, the first Hong Kong born woman of Pakistani origins named Heina Rizwan Mohammad joined the organization.
The police also created a scheme of community liaison assistants (known as NEC) in order to build a bridge between NEC’s and the force.
At the same, the police has recently played emphasis on community relations with NEC’s by organizing different activities and seminars.
Yet, there are some Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese in the Police Force and Correctional Services but it is still not proportionally representative.
The only South Asian high ranking official in Hong Kong was Harnam Singh Grewal who was Commissioner of Customs and later Secretary for the Civil Service.
It isn’t difficult to achieve, all we need to be is rational.
Contrasted to Singapore, there is still some work to be done in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, cohesion amongst Hong Kong citizens is truly achievable.
We have the people, we have the ideas.
All what we need to do is remember that ethnic minorities are Hong Kongers, change the education system and employment regulations.
If we do those things then we can have the Hong Kong that we all want.
Let’s all play our part in making this place a better one.
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Cover Photo Credit: Jirka Matousek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)