Racism 2012 - What You Said


Plenty has been said about the state of race relations in Hong Kong in this issue. And in putting it together, we’ve been truly overwhelmed by the feedback we’ve received – a wide array of opinions and experiences that reflects the admirable diversity of this city. Here’s just a small sample of what you had to say on racism in Hong Kong…

‘Having lived in Hong Kong for close to 11 years, I have no doubt that racism is alive and well here. Being a ‘light shade of brown’, I believe that most people in Hong Kong have an aversion for anyone browner. While their faces remain impassive, the holding of nostrils, sudden donning of masks, and keeping both head and eyes turned away from all ‘browner’ persons in close proximity smacks of a racism that questions notions of HK being a ‘world city’. The same treatment is met out to Mainlanders who are the same race as folks in HK but listening to even the most educated people here berate the Mainlanders, you would not believe that that very individual was a Mainlander a few years before. Until HK citizens learn tolerance and respect for all people, irrespective of race, colour and creed, Hong Kong will never really be a world city. I hope this change comes soon. Hong Kong’s beauty will sure be enhanced!’

‘Scientifically, there is no such thing as race. Just physical traits. Hong Kong people assign value to people based upon their perceived backgrounds, according to their physical appearance. Prejudice occurs casually but the results are real, particularly for those negatively affected. I think there is little difference between ethnic and national discrimination.’

‘People are naturally drawn to people who look like them, therefore racism is a problem in all demographics globally. Sadly in HK, and potentially because it is such an expat-intense country, there are many shades of people coupled with different dialects of the same people, a perfect breeding ground for racism.’

‘Racism in Hong Kong is much more subtle than admission to facilities and services – it’s more in the vein of drawing assumptions about one’s education level, intelligence, wealth, class and treating/speaking about them accordingly.’

‘While chatting with local friends, I couldn’t help but notice the way they talk about black people is really disrespectful. How they handled the maids’ permanent residency case also shows how they look down on the first non-Chinese community here. And the cases of discrimination against Mainlanders could be possibly another form of racism, HK people still considering they have a special place between the Motherland and England.’

‘The opinions that colleagues, friends and the general public express are frequently racist. Quite openly so. I have had people tell me they wouldn’t let a black person teach their kid English because all black people speak slang words. The term Filipino/Indonesian and ‘maid’ are used interchangeably. Opinions of people I know on issues such as the shooting of the homeless Nepalese man and backlashes against Filipinos after the hostage crisis in Manila are negative. I have had one colleague say she believed that people from mainland China ‘did not qualify as human beings’ even though she is aware that my spouse is from Mainland China.’

‘Although being Chinese myself, I feel ashamed of racism being so noticeable in Hong Kong. While I would like to state that not everyone in Hong Kong is racist, I certainly do see a lot of room for improvement. It needs to come from all participants though. Some may at first think of our fellow South Asians, but even some Caucasian expatriates tend to be racist when it comes to local Chinese without Western education. If this manifests, for example, in the ‘angry gweilo’ making derogatory remarks, then one should not be surprised if this is being reflected in racism from the local population. It’s a give and take – let us start with giving first to make a change.’

‘Being born and raised in the north of England during the 70s to Chinese parents, let me tell you something about racism. The openly shouted abuse my brother and I would receive as we minded our own business, and the offerings of beatings if we even dared to look at them – this was the reality of life for many of us. So it makes me laugh to hear people talking about racism in Hong Kong. Do we really believe that the word ‘gweilo’ is racist when it has none of the venom of words like ‘chink’, ‘paki’ or ‘nigger’ which were used to abuse and make us less than human.’

‘Hong Kong is cosmopolitan but it’s racially unique. Most of the discrimination is going to the mainland Chinese! Not sure if it counts as racism as they’re ‘Chinese’ as well.’

‘The new racism shown towards Mainland Chinese is interesting – I guess more of a cultural/status thing than race necessarily. Everyone was very happy to be part of Greater China when the economy was good and that nationalism was on display in force during the Beijing Olympics.’

‘I’d say it’s worse than some places like the US, for instance, since most (Chinese) Hongkongers don’t even have a conception of racism and, even if they do, wouldn’t see it as a problem but just as something normal. However, hate crimes and other forms of violence don’t seem too common here as they are in other places in the world.’

‘The truth is, it’s very hard to pinpoint and separate the various ‘elements’ of racism here. Just prior to the 1997 handover, I’ve been the target of a furious amount of racism: British perfidy for selling out HK (because I’m half Scottish) and suspect patriotism (for not being sufficiently pro-British and not being pro-Chinese simultaneously), and suspect Chinese ethnicity (because I’m a northerner by Chinese blood).’

‘Coming from a multi-ethnic background, looking Caucasian and speaking fluent Cantonese, I often overhear locals speaking about myself, my foreign friends or other ‘鬼佬’. Sometimes it’s ‘reverse-racism’ (speaking about foreigners as if they’re better than Chinese), other times it’s sweeping statements like all Americans are ignorant, warmongers or whoremongers.’

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