Racism 2012 - Way Forward
More than ever, Hong Kong is sitting at the crossroads of the global community. We’re a world financial centre standing on the doorstep of the Mainland at the beginning of what is being seen as ‘China’s century’. The globe is also becoming increasingly interconnected by the day. And, as our city becomes more diverse, there are significant racial, ethnic and nationalist issues which need to be addressed. But how will this be done? Many social workers agree that it begins with bridging the communication gap between all the various ethnicities and groups that reside in our city.
An EOC study on the relationship between South Asians and the Hong Kong Chinese population from earlier this year cites the relationship between the groups as ‘appearing to co-exist in parallel’ with each ‘getting on with its own life’ and ‘having little to do with the other’. It also labels experiences of inter-cultural interaction between both groups in the workplace as ‘positive’.
So steps are being taken. However, for many, there’s a lot more to do. Fermi Wong Wai-fun, executive director of Hong Kong Unison, says to promote integration, the government can improve its Race Discrimination Ordinance, promote racial harmony in education and help people to appreciate minority groups. “The ordinance now is very weak and not fully binding,” she says. “And our education has little information about racial integration. Instead of a national education, what we really need is civil education.”
Annie Lin On-nei, community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation, thinks employers’ attitudes toward minorities are also important. “Governments in other countries always highlight the advantages of racial minorities,” she says. “They actively help minorities to find jobs in the labour market, so they can have more opportunities to communicate with locals. The Hong Kong government has done very little on that.”
Schools are an obvious starting point to help bridge the gap between communities. Recently, some schools have hired minority assistant teachers to help minority students deal with language difficulties and oversee their homework. Assistant teachers can also help communicate with the students’ families.
Sports have also brought some ethnic minorities and local Chinese people together. Hong Kong football side Ethnic Football Team started as a team with only South Asian players. Later, the side attracted three Chinese players. Now it’s a multicultural team consisting of players from six countries.
Yeung Mei, executive director of the New Arrival Women League, suggests the government should provide childcare services for new immigrant women so they can have more time for work. Noting that these women also have language problems, Yeung says the government should also include Cantonese lessons in its employment training programmes. “Being able to work will raise new arrival women’s family and social status,” she says, “even though the role as housewives is also important and should be respected as well. Every role has its contribution to society.”
Lam Ching-man, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work, says she has seen some positive signs of raising people’s awareness of racial integration and, moreover, is positive about the changing cross-generational outlook towards different races. “Racial integration has been incorporated into some classes in schools,” she says. “In my own observation, teenagers know more about ethnic minorities [than older members of the community].”
Of course, it’s a long-term game. But, perhaps, once these same teenagers come of age, they could proudly say that Hong Kong is a rich melting pot of global cultures without the slightest hint of irony.