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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Non-white ethnic minorities in Hong Kong most discriminated against in banking and property services, study finds

Some face difficulties in credit card applications and others are stereotyped by property agents, says equality watchdog

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 10:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 4:42pm

Non-white ethnic minorities in Hong Kong encounter the most discrimination, particularly in financial and housing services, according to findings from a study by the Equal Opportunities ­Commission.

The study, conducted by the watchdog from April to July last year, investigated how ethnic minorities in the city are discrimina­ted against in the provision of goods, services or facilities.

It was found that ethnic minorities – especially non-whites – faced the most discrimination from financial and housing ­service providers.

Hong Kong ethnic minorities fall through the cracks

Methodologies included interviews with ethnic minorities and auditors of various minor ethnicities who approached service providers disguised as customers. Feedback from service providers was also gathered from four focus group discussions – two for large companies with more than 50 employees, and two for smaller companies.

Ferrick Chu Chung-man, director of the EOC, said ethnic minorities interviewed had been “refused service or asked to provide extra documents” when they requested services from banks.

“Some said they wanted to open a credit card account but were turned down by banks”, he said.

“They already have a savings account where their salaries by employers are deposited, yet they still can’t get a credit card.”

Chu also added that some minorities are caught in a dilemma when banks request for extra documents such as birth certificates.

“They have been living in the city for years,” Chu said. “Now you are asking them to go back to another country to get some archaic documents.”

They have been living in the city for years. Now you are asking them to go back to another country to get some archaic documents
Ferrick Chu Chung-man, EOC director

According to interviewees, discrimination in the two sectors were the most intolerable as these services affect their ­quality of life.

Chu said ethnic minorities might sometimes be reluctant to file complaints about being discriminated against because they do not want to be perceived as “troublemakers”.

According to the EOC, about 5 per cent of Hong Kong’s population are ethnically non-Chinese.

Auditors in the study from various minor ethnicities in Hong Kong visited goods and service providers across different fields as clients. They encountered discrimination in about two-thirds of their visits to financial or housing service providers. In financial services alone, auditors reported being discriminated against about 33 per cent of the time.

Non-white auditors of various backgrounds – Pakistani, Indian, Malaysian and Nigerian – repor­ted encountering discrimination 44 per cent of the time from goods and service providers while the number for white auditors was 24 per cent.

Policies needed which give ethnic minorities level playing field

Focus group discussions with service providers also revealed that property agencies tended to stereotype their minority clients as “mean” or with a propensity to “haggle” and under-report the number of housemates.

On how the results of this study could affect legislature, EOC chairperson Alfred Chan Cheung-ming said its third and most comprehensive review of the four existing anti-discrimination ordinances was submitted to the ­­go­vernment in March, alongside a total of 73 recommendations.

The Ethnic Minorities Unit of the EOC had also collaborated with the Hong Kong Association of Banks and the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers to organise trai­ning workshops for banking staff.

There were 45 complaints filed on the basis of anti-discrimina­tion ordinances in 2014, with 27 cases involving the provision of goods, services and facilities.

In 2015, there were 48 cases and 24 involved the provision of goods, services and facilities.