Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Diversity list: Foundation to publish list of ethnic minority representatives willing to serve on government committees

Zubin Foundation founder wants to prod the administration to use more non-Chinese Asians to help it make decisions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 9:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 9:01am

The city’s first “diversity” list – profiles of ethnic minority Hongkongers qualified and willing to join government advisory boards – is being published on Monday in a move to encourage inclusion in the making of government decisions.

The list of 16 final candidates will be announced by the Zubin Foundation think tank as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Hong Kong ethnic minorities fall through the cracks

The think tank will also reveal that just 0.4 per cent of the 1,500 people on 100 government advisory bodies were of either non-Chinese or non-white descent.

“How can we be Asia’s world city without any Asians – apart from Chinese – on these committees? Clearly we need Asians,” said Shalini Mahtani, founder of the Zubin Foundation, which developed the list in partnership with global executive search and leadership consultancy Spencer Stuart on a pro-bono basis.

Mahtani called the list a tool for the government in making its advisory boards more diverse and representative of society.

She said that until now, there had been no evidence that the government had intentionally excluded ethnic minorities.

“I’d give [the government] the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “But if in a couple of years, ethnic minorities are still excluded from the committees, this would be a pressure point. But at this moment, this is a tool. This is saying: you’ve never considered us, do consider us now.”

The diversity list is to show ethnic minorities’ commitment towards Hong Kong as their home, as well as their willingness and qualification to serve – especially when many of the topics discussed in committees also relate to ethnic minorities, such as education, employment, crime and security, she said.

Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities strive to break down barriers

It is also a response to a status report on ethnic minorities from the 1997 handover until 2014, published last year, which indicated that there was a trend towards increasing exclusion of the city’s non-Chinese population in general society, leading to more crime and higher rates of poverty.

“If there are two people with the same credentials, speak the language, [the government] should give the ethnic minority an equal chance, and consider them for the other reasons – they bring diversity and they become a positive role model to the youth,” added Mahtani, who hoped that more ethnic minority voices in the public would help change negative perceptions.

Close to 70 ethnic minority groups, consuls-general and the Equal Opportunities Commission were approached during research into identifying six communities – Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian – as target groups. The team then sought self-nominations.

“It’s important that these are self-nominations, because we wanted them to be willing,” said Mahtani.

Candidates had to meet tough criteria, including having achieved excellence in their field of work and also certain standing in their profession and being committed to serving Hong Kong and willing to join a committee should they be invited.

“This is a call to action for the government and ethnic minorities themselves to be more visible,” she said.