Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities need help to become ‘resilient’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 8:58pm

Existing social policies in Hong Kong geared towards ethnic minorities tend to offer only short-term or temporary solutions.

These include offering Chinese-language aid frameworks at a very basic level, which tend to trap those from the minority groups in low-paying jobs.

Similarly, social policy on unemployment focuses mostly on vocational training, which may prevent the social upward mobility of many ethnic groups in Hong Kong. In sum, those policies do not really solve issues or help facilitate the integration of ethnic minority individuals within mainstream society.

In fact, existing policies seem to produce more deficits or gaps that may make the public more resistant to embracing non-ethnic-majority groups. In order to achieve long-term social inclusion and social harmony in Hong Kong, policymakers may shift their focus to implement measures related to “resilience-fostering”.

What the case of Hong Kong’s star policeman says about city’s language policy

Resilience is a widely used term in various disciplines and fields, and refers to the robustness of people or things – in the sense of displaying the fact that they would bounce back even if they were to encounter severe adversities, such as institutional discrimination.

There have been some welcome efforts in the city to promote inspirational success stories related to ethnic minority citizens. One recent example was the widespread publicity given to a “hero” policeman of Pakistani origin, constable Ifzal Zaffar, who hit the headlines after bringing down a suicidal man from a crane by speaking comforting words to him in his native Urdu. However, such information may categorise specific ethnic groups as “resilient” and the rest as “problematic”.

To prevent the labelling of individuals or groups, well-targeted resilience-fostering social policies may produce longer-term positive solutions, rather than snapshots of achievements for the sake of promoting social and racial harmony.

Gizem Arat, post-doctoral fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, HKU