Undercover job leads to race relations role

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 December, 2006, 12:00am

An undercover reporting assignment led to Kanwal Jamil's job at the Race Relations Unit after she investigated whether a position advertised in her Urdu-English newspaper was genuine.

In an effort to determine if the advert for a part-time worker of ethnic minority origin was a public relations exercise on the part of the unit or a genuine offer, she applied for the job, was interviewed, and landed the position.

'I had wondered if the advertisement was for show or if they were really hiring,' said Ms Jamil, who started her job in November last year, but continues to work on the Weekly Jang Hong Kong newspaper.

The unit, set up in 2002 under the Home Affairs Bureau, initially only employed staff who could speak and read Chinese, but has expanded its small team to include Nepali full-time employee, Ale Bharat, and Ms Jamil. It now has a team of seven.

Ms Jamil said her job visiting and advising people complemented her work as a journalist. 'On the newspaper, we promote services and try to help people, and in the Race Relations Unit we do the same thing.'

Duties at the unit include home visits to newly arrived migrants, education programmes for schools, and creating leaflets and books in a variety of languages.

Since it was formed, the unit has received 168 complaints of racial discrimination - 16 of them lodged between April and November this year, with the majority relating to treatment by government and public bodies.

Race Relations Bureau head Shirley Chan Wai-ching said 20 per cent of complaints were from local Chinese.

A long-awaited bill to combat racial discrimination was tabled in the Legislative Council last week.

Ms Chan said if the bill was passed into law, the educational role of the unit would continue to be vital in combating racist behaviour and attitudes.

'The bill is not the only means to eliminate racial discrimination. Public education is another very important element to achieve that goal,' she said.

The Home Affairs Bureau has more than doubled its spending on tackling racial discrimination, from HK$4.83 million in 2002-2003 to HK$10.9 million in this financial year.