Case illustrates need to address discrimination

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am

It might be difficult to justify mainlander Wu Peng's biting off a bus passenger's fingertip to vent his anger over discrimination.

But the case yesterday renewed calls to address Hong Kong resident's weakness in appreciating and accommodating differences - whether it be language, skin colour, cultural background or religion.

Although well-off mainlanders may be treated more favourably than locals, Wong Hung, assistant professor of social work at Chinese University, said this does not mean that money can buy equality.

'It is for the sake of business that shopkeepers have to be much nicer to wealthy mainland tourists. Deep down, they can have the same negative feelings about wealthy mainlanders as they do for those who cross the border with little money.'

Professor Wong said public awareness about cultural differences is low. There is little study about multiculturalism in school.

'We need to remind ourselves that we are only a small part of China,' he said. 'In other words, we are also a minority in the context of the entire country. If we discriminate against other Chinese people, they can also do the same to us.'

Professor Wong urged the government to include new mainland arrivals in the Race Discrimination Bill, since their background and norms can be very different from their Hong Kong counterparts.

To illustrate his point, he cited a recent court case in which a City University student from Wuhan was jailed after offering HK$10,000 to a lecturer in exchange for questions and answers to an examination.

Sze Lai-shan of the Society for Community Organisation said 91.2 per cent of mainlanders polled two years ago said they had experienced discrimination when shopping, seeking work or attending social functions.