Academic's free educational materials to battle racism

Free booklet and DVD on Indian culture produced by city academic to be sent to every high school to educate teachers and pupils

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 September, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 September, 2014, 5:14am

A Chinese University professor hopes to tackle what she sees as the city's racist attitude towards ethnic minorities by giving educational materials to every secondary school in Hong Kong free of charge.

"Hong Kong is a very racist society … in which an ethnic hierarchy is very obvious," Professor Maria Tam Siu-mi, of CUHK's anthropology department, said yesterday.

To tackle racial discrimination, Tam has produced a 76-page booklet and DVD on Indian culture after a year-long research project she carried out with students.

The booklet aims to debunk myths and stereotypes about Indians and will be sent to every high school in the city.

Next week, Tam will start a new study on the city's Nepali community.

The moves come months after a public outcry over racial stereotyping in primary-school textbooks that suggest, among other things, that all people from the Philippines are domestic helpers.

The publisher, Educational Publishing House in Singapore, defended the material, saying it promoted "racial harmony" and that "no job is superior or inferior to another".

Hong Kong's Education Bureau says it has since met the publisher to point out "the pitfalls in the existing treatment".

Tam said she hoped the free educational aids would help liberal-studies teachers develop culturally sensitive lessons.

"It's to show them that it's not difficult if they want to introduce a multicultural education programme."

She said the government's commitment to promoting the culture of ethnic minorities was superficial, and the work of the Race Relations Unit, such as free cultural days, did little more than provide a few hours of entertainment without any context.

Tam hopes the booklet will also raise awareness of the role of Indians in the city since the 19th century, such as the late businessman Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody, who co-founded the University of Hong Kong and after whom Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is named, as well as Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala, a Parsee who started the Star Ferry in 1888.

According to the 2011 census, there are close to 29,000 Indians living in Hong Kong, of whom 48 per cent have lived here for more than 10 years.

Brought up in Hong Kong during the 1960s and 1970s, Tam said there were few classroom lessons about the cultural make-up of the city. But she noted the city's improved attitude in recent years, for example with the introduction of the Racial Discrimination Ordinance in 2009.

This year, Equal Opportunities Commission chairman York Chow Yat-ngok announced plans to set up a multi-ethnic task force with annual funding of HK$4.7 million to improve its work towards racial equality.