Ambiguities in race law raise need for inquiry into shooting

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 March, 2009, 12:00am

I am saddened by the shooting death of a homeless Nepali man last week. All we know from the news is the police version of events saying the officer was simply defending himself. The truth, however, could be a different story.

I have witnessed police harassment against South Asians in Hong Kong. Once, as I waited for a taxi in Wan Chai, I saw three police officers stop a South Asian to inquire about his identity. When he asked why he was stopped, he was told 'it's none of your business, cha chai (a Cantonese epithet for South Asians)'.

The South Asian was offended and he immediately said they were harassing him. The police then told him that if he did not co-operate, they would arrest him for obstruction of justice.

This made me wonder whether there was a police practice or procedure to systematically harass South Asians.

A few years later, I helped lobby for the Race Discrimination Bill, when I met many South Asians who told me that they were routinely stopped by police asking for proof of identity.

Such practices are the reason we have been fighting so hard to ensure that the Race Discrimination Ordinance covers all government activities, which was not the case in the original bill.

I urge the government and the police to investigate the shooting fully and, if necessary, launch an inquiry to consider whether the shooting was at all justified.

If the incident is found to be racially motivated, then the Department of Justice should prosecute the police officer.

In any case, the government and the police should make sure no other such killing will happen again. One death is already one too many.

I recall that when the London Metropolitan Police gunned down an innocent Brazilian who was mistaken as a Middle East bomber in 2005, there was a public outcry.

The British government and Parliament conducted inquiries. I urge our government and lawmakers to consider doing likewise in this matter.

Francis Au Yeung, member of the Alliance Against Racial Discrimination