Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Equal Opportunities Commission may probe schooling for ethnic minorities

In some schools 90 per cent of pupils are non-Chinese, watchdog chief York Chow says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2016, 12:20pm

The Equal Opportunities Commission yesterday accused the government of fostering segregation through its education policy for ethnic minorities and is considering a formal investigation.

Speaking for the first time on the issue, York Chow Yat-ngok, chairperson of the discrimination watchdog, said: "Although there is a denial of the so-called designated school policy [from the government], there is de facto segregation of ethnic minorities in schools. Some schools are made up of 80 to 90 per cent ethnic minorities. …

"We [the EOC] do not exclude the possibility of launching a formal investigation into whether the education policies pose any impact, positive and negative, on Hong Kong's children."

Chow was speaking at the commission's annual forum. He said an internal study would be conducted in the coming quarter, possibly followed by an investigation next year.

His comments come amid growing concern among rights advocates that the education policy for ethnic minorities may breach anti-discrimination laws. The Post reported last week that a concern group is considering challenging the government in court.

The EOC's investigation could also cover the failure to teach Chinese as a second language for ethnic minorities, an option rejected by the Education Bureau, Chow said.

While Chow's fellow EOC member John Tse Wing-ling accused the Examinations and Assessment Authority of failing to provide a level playing field for those with learning difficulties, Chow said he hoped not to target any officials but only assert that certain policies had to change.

Fermi Wong Wai-fun, of Unison, the minority rights group considering legal action, welcomed Chow's pledge and said a formal investigation would be "powerful".

If the Education Bureau failed to act upon the investigation's recommendations, the EOC could issue an enforcement notice that required rectification, Wong said.

The lack of a second-language curriculum in Chinese has hampered non-Chinese-speakers for years. The problem became worse after the handover, when Chinese became a requirement for tertiary education and most kinds of work.

Yesterday's forum also included a fierce exchange over the EOC's plan to consult on laws to restrict discrimination against sexual minorities.

Confronted by a dozen parents opposed to the idea, Chow, a former food and health minister, repeatedly said a law was needed "as soon as possible".