Hong Kong still far from being a racially inclusive city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2012, 2:33am

Hong Kong likes to see itself as a role model for cultural diversity and racial tolerance. Although we are a predominantly Chinese society, sizeable expatriate and ethnic minority communities co-exist in harmony. Arguably, we provide equal opportunities for everyone. We are entitled to the same right to work, study and pursue our way of life regardless of our ethnic origin. However, aspirations and reality can be different. Prejudice and differences in beliefs and values mean closing the gap is easier said than done.

The police force's recruitment of a South Asian woman has generated a lot of discussion. Hong Kong-born Heina Rizwan Mohammad is the first policewoman recruited from an ethnic minority since the handover. That the police have recognised the benefit of having a multicultural force is a positive step. It is to be hoped that other departments with similar operational needs will also see the benefit and extend their recruitment to cover non-Chinese.

That being said, the media attention drawn to this recruitment first also suggests that government jobs for people from ethnic minorities remain the exception rather than the norm. If we truly embrace equal opportunities for all, examples like hers should not have made headlines. This can only mean there is still a long way to go.

One way to help is to change public perceptions. People from ethnic minorities have until now largely been associated with low-end jobs in the city, and many still struggle to make ends meet. Recently, we have seen more non-Chinese faces on television, working as news reporters or acting in soap operas in fluent Cantonese. This reminds us that ethnic minorities have long been an integral part of our society. It is encouraging to see their profile continue to rise and their image improve.

But such successes are the exception, rather than the rule. Many members of ethnic minorities still suffer discrimination in public and social spheres. A lot more needs to be done before the city can truly claim to be racially tolerant and inclusive.