Monolingual policy will eventually lead to dumbing down of district secretariat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to the letter by Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chan Wai-keung ('District councils' non-English outlook translates clearly into discrimination', May 12).

Members of Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group and friends and relatives living in Yau Tsim Mong are pleased to see that finally a district councillor is taking action on behalf of the significant number of residents in the area who speak Cantonese but cannot read Chinese.

We are used to seeing banners on the street telling us how much our district representatives are doing for minorities but these messages rarely translate into any action to improve communication and conditions.

Mr Chan is concerned that the minutes of Yau Tsim Mong District Council meetings, at which matters are discussed that directly affect the well-being of minorities, are not available to residents who are not proficient in written Chinese.

We have noticed the gradual reduction in recent years of bilingual information on this council's website. This means that minority residents are excluded from their right to information on decisions being made on their behalf. They are denied access to data they need to learn about funds allocated for local projects and determine if these funds are being wisely spent.

Not only are minority groups being marginalised with regard to the decision-making process, we also feel that the trend towards monolingualism is depriving our young people of opportunities to work at community offices and will result in a dumbing down of the district secretariat.

The decline in the use of English at district level appears to have accelerated since Tsang Tak-sing was appointed secretary for home affairs.

In the Home Affairs Department, there are three units which are supposed to deal with minority issues, the Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony, the Ethnic Minorities Forum and the Race Relations Unit. Why are they not addressing the rights of minorities to information on the operations of district councils? A check of the department's website shows that the minutes of the last forum meeting, held on December 20, have yet to be posted.

Included in the terms of reference of the Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony is a clause to 'encourage all sectors of the community, particularly the ethnic minorities, actively to promote awareness of the issues entailed'.

Perhaps the Audit Commission could look into what these units are doing and if we are getting any value for our tax dollars.

Paul Kumar, member, Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group