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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Concern expressed over rise in arrests of non-Chinese in Hong Kong tourist districts

Police statistics point to a record number of arrests in Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Ma Tei this year; social worker worried about effect on South Asian community

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2017, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2017, 10:51pm

Two areas popular with both tourists and locals have seen a sharp jump in arrests of non-ethnic Chinese in recent months – an unwelcome trend that a social worker warned might lead to the stigmatisation of the South Asian community.

Police statistics revealed the number of non-ethnic Chinese arrested in Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui jumped 22 per cent to 565 last year from a year earlier.

In the first three months of this year, the number stood at 208 or about half of last year’s total, which points to a possible record for the full year.

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Those arrested were largely involved in shoplifting, general theft and possession of drugs, according to police.

The statistics include whites, Africans and other ethnic minorities who are either Hong Kong residents, tourists or asylum seekers.

Though classified as “minor offences” by the police, Tsim Sha Tsui district councillor Kwan Sau-ling said the problem had worsened, and believed the concentration of tourists in the district was one reason why there had been a surge of non-ethnic Chinese arrests.

“The number of crimes committed by non-ethnic Chinese in the district has been increasing for some time and has become quite a big problem in this area,” she said.

Kwan believes non-ethnic Chinese who are arrested are attracted to her district because it is a tourist hub. She says they work as touts or offer illegal car hires.

The increased number of “fake” asylum seekers was another factor for the increase in non-ethnic Chinese arrests, she added.

“We have monthly meetings ... with police. Last month, they said the situation in some areas had become more serious, while other areas had got better,” Kwan said.

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A business owner in Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui – a hot spot for non-ethnic Chinese – said the rise in crime in the area made it unsafe for people to hang around the complex after 8pm. He declined to be named.

Most of the crime was connected to the illegal drug trade, he added.

A police spokeswoman told the Post they were very concerned about the crime situation in the district and conducted “various intelligence-led operations and stepped-up patrols” to combat crime.

But a social worker who deals with non-ethnic Chinese, especially in Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui, was not convinced that the statistics meant there was an actual increase in crime.

“Arrested does not mean guilty. Many times [non-ethnic Chinese] are just arrested. Sometimes for not carrying an ID card or papers,” said Jeffrey Andrews, who is from an ethnic minority in Hong Kong. “So the statistics are misleading and should include numbers of convicted as well.”

With some in the Chinese-language media focusing on crimes by South Asians, Andrews said he was worried that it would have a negative effect on the South Asian community.

“The statistics are not strictly confined to South Asians, as frequently reported in the media, but non-ethnic Chinese also includes Vietnamese, whites, Africans or Japanese,” he said.

Police said they did not have a breakdown of the ethnicity of those arrested, but continued to engage different non-ethnic Chinese communities, NGOs and stakeholders “to disseminate anti-crime messages”.

Arrests of non-ethnic Chinese have been relatively flat throughout Hong Kong in the past five years. Sham Shui Po – another area well patronised by ethnic minorities – saw a rise, but is set for a decline this year.

Additional reporting by Tracy Zhang