Minority residents ask Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to address inequality concerns
Ahead of chief executive’s maiden policy address on Wednesday, group urges action to ensure fair treatment in schools, at work and in hospitals
A group of ethnic minority residents and activists has urged Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to eliminate “long-standing inequality” in the city’s education, employment and medical services.
The residents said while many of them were born in Hong Kong, many kindergartens or schools had refused to accept their children. Those who struggled to speak Cantonese also faced difficulties in finding jobs or accessing public health care services, they said.
They hoped that Lam, as the city’s former social welfare chief, would be more forthcoming in her maiden policy address than her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, who they said failed to deliver on his election promise to end their plight.
Lam will unveil her policy blueprint in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
“We had a dialogue with Leung during his campaign in 2012, but not any more afterwards ... We want to give Mrs Lam a chance, and we understand that her administration is facing a lot of problems, but the ethnic minority have their needs too,” said Jeffrey Andrews, a Hong Kong-born social worker who is ethnically Indian.
Gathering outside the government’s headquarters at Tamar on Sunday, the group chanted “We love Hong Kong, we are Hongkongers, we are Hong Kong’s future” in both English and Cantonese.
They included ethnic minority parents and students, as well as Hong Kong Chinese tutors and activists.
City University second-year student Bakar Fariha Salma Deiya, a member of the ethnic minority advocacy group Voices of Diversity, said many local kindergartens refused to accept ethnic minority children because they could not speak Cantonese, and that those children struggled even more as they grew up.
“We hope local kindergartens will stop discriminating against them and start accepting them. We also need more assistance in the city’s medical system,” Bakar said.
Health in Action project officer Heidi Miu said public hospitals should hire interpreters, as many ethnic minority women or elderly people were “excluded from public health care because of language barriers”.
Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers (Kowloon) supervisor But Ngan-ping proposed that the Labour Department should hire full-time officers to help people from ethnic minorities to find jobs. She said some large companies had refused to hire people who did not understand Chinese.
In her election manifesto, Lam promised to review the Race Discrimination Ordinance to ensure that people from different ethnic backgrounds were treated fairly and equally. She also pledged to launch a series of educational measures to help non-Chinese-speaking students learn Chinese, and enhance support for ethnic minorities in employment in both the public and private sectors.
A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the government “has been sparing no effort” in promoting the elimination of discrimination and equal opportunities.
“The government will continue to maintain proactive interaction and close cooperation with the Equal Opportunities Commission with a view to working together in building a pluralistic and inclusive society which is free from discrimination,” he added.
Last year, about 8 per cent (about 630,000 people) of Hong Kong’s 7.34 million residents were non-Chinese. Indians and Thais are the largest groups in the city, excluding Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers.