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  • Jul 12, 2014
  • Updated: 7:43pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Blame the British colonial legacy for Hong Kong's racial intolerance

Victor Fung Keung says Hong Kong's colonial past is largely to blame for the high level of racial intolerance found among citizens in a survey

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 1:58am

Oh my goodness, we are racist! The World Values Survey shows that almost 27 per cent of citizens said they would not want a neighbour of a different race. Other intolerant citizens include those from Bangladesh, Jordan and India.

My gut reaction was: let's blame the British. They colonised us for more than 150 years until the handover in 1997. British people are notoriously racist, I thought. I was wrong. The survey finds that fewer than 5 per cent of Britons are racially intolerant. And Britain's other former colonies, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, have low scores of racial intolerance.

So, what is wrong with us? Should we simply admit that all Chinese are racist? No. The survey found that only between 15 and 20 per cent of people on the mainland are racially intolerant, a far cry from our 27 per cent.

So, if I can't blame the British or Chinese on the mainland, I'll turn to self-denial: Hong Kong scored such a high percentage of racial intolerance because we were honest and the Americans and Canadians lied in the survey.

This doesn't hold water, either. The survey is based on well-respected research and was reported in The Washington Post on May 15. The writer, Max Fisher, concluded that racial tolerance has nothing to do with economic freedom.

The survey also finds that people from free-market Hong Kong don't want their neighbours to be homosexuals, people with Aids, and those with a criminal record. There is only one bright spot: we don't mind living next to the emotionally unstable.

After some soul-searching, I went back to my gut feeling. Yes, the British are to blame. Deep in many Hong Kong people's subconscious, they hate the British because, for many decades, they occupied senior government and corporate positions in Hong Kong. Local people were treated as second-class citizens.

It will take a generation or two, I believe, for this psychological complex to fade out. Many people interviewed in the World Values Survey had lived under British rule. I wasn't one of those interviewed by researchers. If I had been, I'd have said that I'd love to have a neighbour of a different race; I am one of the few who benefited from colonial rule.

In the 1980s, the Hong Kong government sent selected ethnic-Chinese government officials to study at Cambridge or Oxford university, to groom them for the top. The British government also offered scholarships to a few locals to attend Oxford or Cambridge; I was one of those picked.

Apart from the British, many minorities living in Hong Kong are also targets of racial intolerance. Many from South Asia are employed in low-paying menial jobs. Worse, some African political asylum seekers live in Hong Kong on United Nations subsidies. Since they aren't allowed to work here, some can be seen drinking beer at any time of the day or night on the streets of Sham Shui Po and elsewhere.

I'm not trying to find excuses for Hong Kong people's intolerance. Certainly, we need to work harder to become less racist.

Victor Fung Keung is a Hong Kong-based commentator on political and social issues


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Well, Victor, that was certainly a waste of an Oxbridge scholarship. How typical it is of a Chinese to shift the blame away from home. The real source of the problem is obvious. By nature, the Chinese are the most racist people in the world and the Cantonese are the most racist of that people. That racism begins with the very name that we call China, the Middle Kingdom, the land between Earth and Heaven and better than the filthy barbarians of the Earth. It's the same attitude of unwarranted superiority that lost China all of its wars with colonial powers in the 19th Century. It's the same arrogance that is propelling China into conflict over other countries' Pacific islands now. At least the Putonghua name for a Caucasian is simply "long-nose" and other names tend to be referenced to geographical origins. However, for the Cantonese, the name in common general usage for every other race or nationality represented in numbers in Hong Kong is derogatory or, at the least, some kind of "devil" or "ghost". Compare that to what the Cantonese call themselves when referring to other races, namely the word for "human" or "person". If the Hong Kong Chinese call themselves human and everyone else is a devil or worse, racism cannot help but rear its ugly head eventually. No one needs an Oxbridge degree to tell them that.
There is a distinction between racist and discriminative. Chinese are mostly racist calling anyone outside of its border savage. British are mostly discriminative perhaps acting at home and definitely in Hong Kong as a colonial ruler. The circumstance to rule effectively of foreign natives, the rulers differentiated themselves and forbade fraternizing with the locals and subordinates. The colonial Hong Kong created generations of locals who were brought up within a social ladder of class distinctions. LKS in part besides of his own innate ability, is largely a willful creation of the British as the top Chinese exemplifying that money making opportunity for locals could be had. The unfortunate development from the British rule is the hardened perspective of the locals in class distinction. The racist attitude is just too innate of the Chinese that could blame on others. The dislike of the mainlanders in Hong Kong is a show of class distinction and struggle that is so well experienced in the colonial time.
This revealing ledger of thinking aloud
shows an inefficiently twisted mental route
“This doesn't hold water, either. The survey is based on well-respected research and was reported in The Washington Post on May 15. The writer, Max Fisher, concluded that racial tolerance has nothing to do with economic freedom.”
Such expression / "argument" resembles puking rather than articulation
Superficiality underlined by intellectual laziness
I believe you could do better
If only you try harder


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