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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Rise in bogus refugees has made Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities victims of prejudice

Holden Chow says whole communities are being unfairly tarred by association, and resolving the problem of ‘fake’ asylum seekers is one way to remove the stigma

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 1:00pm

On various occasions of late, I have met leaders of ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong who lament the harmful impact that the problem of bogus refugees and asylum seekers is having on them. Media coverage emphasising that these bogus refugees are committing crimes and working in the black labour market has created a stigma and ethnic minorities have been wrongfully labelled as troublemakers in the city.

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Applications for asylum and refugee status in Hong Kong come from people of varying origins, including but not limited to those from Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, according to the government.

Those abusing the system are merely the black sheep and a small minority, but the public wrongly believes that ethnic minorities from a couple of countries in particular consist mostly of troublemakers. As a result, everyone is lumped under the same banner and suffer offensive or racist abuse.

Logically, people ought to be wise enough to distinguish between the black sheep and the innocent ethnic minorities, and should not blame those who comply with the law. Unfortunately, it seems these things aren’t logical.

Ethnic minorities have made significant contributions to our city, and many families settled in Hong Kong a few generations ago. One should not underestimate how much the bogus refugee problem has undermined their image in Hong Kong.

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From talking to representatives of various ethnic groups, it’s clear that they view Hong Kong as their home and, similar to most Hongkongers from all walks of life, work hard and see themselves as no different from the Chinese here. Some face language barriers, which makes it difficult to find work, particularly as civil servants or in the police force as most cannot meet the Chinese-language proficiency requirements. Some can speak fluent Cantonese, but fail to meet written standards. Many suffer hardships as a result.

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The problem of bogus refugees means that any racist perception (which unfortunately exists) towards ethnic minorities has become further entrenched. No wonder they are angry.

Of course, the government should take appropriate measures to crack down on bogus refugees and abuse of the asylum procedure in Hong Kong , including speeding up the application process, strengthening cooperation with various jurisdictions, and raising the penalties for those found to be illegal immigrants.

However, racism is not acceptable here, or anywhere, and we have to make every effort to avert potential prejudice against ethnic minorities. The bogus refugee problem is a serious one. We must tackle it now.

Holden Chow is vice-chairman of the DAB