• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:10pm
NewsHong 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 : Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 7:29am

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".



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

the problem with our HKG loopholed laws
the laws should read 'MUST' not 'MAY'
Some countries in Europe practice segregation of minorities in schools too. It's still unsolved. This is considered as a Violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) to the European Convention on Human Rights and has triggered several cases at Human right court. So interesting to see the action taken by EOC.
yes, this is true that there is no proper facilities for ethnic minorities to teach chinese so there is segregation of ethnic minorities in schools which is not fair. due to lack of chinese language it is difficult for ethnic minorities to get jobs. there is clear discrimination which will not be accepted. government is trying to be smart but at any cost the first preference of jobs should be available to ethnic minorities even if they don't know chinese as this blunder is created by government.
"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"."

These parents are idiots. Of course sexual minorities need to be protected.
The main problem is the government's artificial and exclusionary “biliterate-trilingual” language barrier, even requiring applicants for degree and professional public service posts to pass a Chinese language paper. This language discrimination is the least objectively justifiable as holders of degree or professional qualifications are more likely to be proficient in both Chinese and English and able to work with colleagues in either language regardless of whether some are proficient only in English – as they naturally did before 1997. Mandatory Chinese and English requirements across the board cannot ethically, practically or legally be justified in a population which is proficient mainly in either Chinese or English but not necessarily both, and pre-1997 experience demonstrated that ethnic minorities could be perfectly well accommodated and work effectively using English without an exclusionary multiple language qualification. Giving ethnic minority children the opportunity to study Chinese language will hardly dent the problem. Chinese is so difficult a language to learn that true proficiency can mainly be attained only by living with Chinese or, more effectively but still less feasibly, growing up in a Chinese family. That is why language policy is such an important focus of racial discrimination law. The same considerations apply to tertiary education - and the universities will accommodate overseas students in English if they pay the money. Michael Scott


SCMP.com Account