DISCRIMINATION

Hong Kong estate agent refuses flat viewing as client was Indian

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 January, 2015, 4:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 January, 2015, 8:44am

In an apparently blatant example of illegal racial discrimination in the city, an estate agent has told a client he was unable to view a flat because he is Indian.

Simran Singh Sethi, 30, who works for a major US-listed technology company in Cyberport, was interested in renting a sea-view apartment in Kennedy Town's The Sail at Victoria, describing it as "a perfect [and] really beautiful apartment".

However, in a text from a Centaline property agent named only as Yvonne, Singh, who is happy to pay about HK$22,000 a month in rent, was told the landlord refused to rent to an Indian.

"I've travelled all around the world and never in my life have I been subjected to profiling or racism ever," said Singh, describing his surprise that he could experience racism in 2015.

He said Yvonne had not even met him.

"When somebody hasn't met you, somebody hasn't asked you questions, doesn't know anything about you, just for someone to label you - you then miss out on an opportunity just because you're a certain nationality," he said.

The estate agent told the Sunday Morning Post that she assumed he was Indian because he had been referred to her by another client who is also Indian.

Singh, who has lived in serviced apartments since arriving from New Delhi more than a year ago, confronted Yvonne by text once she said he had been turned down as a potential tenant because of his race. He said she tried to backtrack and suggest it was "a misunderstanding".

The texts, which have been seen by the Post and are reprinted below, tell a different story.

Louis Chan Wing-kit, managing director for residential sales at Centaline, said landlords who refused to rent to people because of their race were breaking the law and the company would not deal with anyone who held these "unacceptable" prejudices.

"It is illegal. Our company does not encourage colleagues to [turn down tenants on grounds of race] as it is discrimination."

Chan added: "The employee's training covers discrimination regulation and fair transaction. Our colleagues should be aware of that."

A spokeswoman said the company's legal team was examining the case.

Singh, who is still hunting for an apartment, has yet to decide whether to lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The Post had no success in contacting the landlord.