Expats have only themselves to blame for bad sentiment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 November, 2000, 12:00am

I have to correct Derek Sankey's letter headlined 'Tax-dodging reports give ammunition to anti-expat sentiment' (South China Morning Post, November 17) on his patronising view of Chinese people's perceptions of expats in Hong Kong.

First, if expats have a bad reputation among the local community, and the local people view expats with some sort of disdain, then he should address the problem of why expats are here in the first place.

Let's not forget that expats are treated preferentially to the local people in terms of jobs, salaries, housing, etc, for performing similar work to local people. Expats are in Hong Kong because they were traditionally viewed as better than the local inhabitants.

But, given the pool of well qualified local people in Hong Kong, the question that needs to be asked is why companies still employ expats when it is not necessary. Mr Sankey should realise that racist attitudes originate from somewhere, and the fact that he has promoted a notion that expats are naturally detested by local people is wrong.

Hong Kong, as a former British colony, has a well documented history of racist attitudes by expats towards the local people and this is still remembered.

Second, although the Post's headline about expats dodging taxes prior to departing is sensational, it is no more sensational than other stories about mainland women coming to Hong Kong to give birth at taxpayers' expense. Why didn't he also complain that this story was racist? At most, the tax evasion story will remind some expats that their days of assuming that they can treat Hong Kong law as non-consequential to themselves are over.

As a last thought, most expats cannot read Chinese and cannot speak Cantonese, but most local inhabitants can read and speak English.

So where's the inequality?


Sha Tin