Bureau 'used discriminatory language' over application for backing for Islamic education and community centre An ethnic minority group has accused the Education and Manpower of using 'discriminatory' language, an accusation made in the same week as the government announced plans to introduce anti-racism legislation. The United Muslim Association of Hong Kong (Umah) wrote to the Home Affairs Bureau this week complaining about language it was told had been used over its application for backing for an Islamic education and community centre. In a letter to Director of the Home Affairs Bureau Shelley Lee to solicit support for the education centre, an Umah official wrote: 'Although we have overcome some of the hardships, the Education and Manpower Bureau has made it difficult for us and surprisingly, made such discriminatory remark against us such as 'If the education centre is run by an 'Ah cha' then no local children will be coming to enrol and study in that school'.' The official went on to say the organisation was drawing the conclusion the EMB did not support its 'noble cause'. A spokesman for the EMB emphasised that the bureau rejected racism. 'We don't know who made the comment. It's crystal clear we're against all forms of racism in the EMB,' he said. Shirley Chan Wai-ching, of the Home Affairs Bureau's race relations unit, said the allegation would be investigated. 'We plan to write back for further details,' she said. Muslim groups have been trying for more than a decade to win government backing for the proposed Islamic centre and Mosque in Sheung Shui, which would include a teaching centre offering courses on hotel and restaurant management, tourism, and Cantonese, Putonghua, Arabic, English and South Asian languages for young people in the ethnic community. A spokesman said the project had stalled because the EMB had not given its backing despite other departments having done so. He said letters enquiring about the delay were sent to the EMB in March but had still not been answered. Project architect James Yuen King-yuk said the education centre would make a valuable contribution to the Hong Kong community. 'It will offer unique courses, teaching Arabic and other languages and skills that will greatly help the tourism industry.' Other ethnic minority groups have welcomed the plan for race discrimination legislation but say reforms are needed over how their children are allocated school places and taught Chinese if their prospects are to improve. They say widespread education is also needed to root out discriminatory attitudes and practices in schools. Dick Sung Ming-tat, a teacher at Yaumati Kai Fong Association School, a primary school which has set up an international section for South Asian children, said the introduction of the bill could press the Education and Manpower Bureau to tailor a Chinese as a second language curriculum for ethnic minorities in local schools and improve their chances of getting into university. But Mr Sung said community leaders representing ethnic minorities, as well as representatives from schools catering for them, should be consulted on the draft of the bill. 'The bill might otherwise provide the government with the leeway to do little to change the unfair conditions the children are under,' he said. A VCD, Plight of South Asian Ethnic Minority Children, produced by the Umah International Primary School, Yuen Long, shows what a tough time the children often have when they attend local schools, unable to understand the language or text books. A copy of it was sent to the government as evidence of their problems. Mohamed Alli Din, the school's manager, said the policy of integrating ethnic minority children into local schools was not working and was damaging to the children. 'Ethnic minority children who don't speak Chinese are forced to go to Chinese-medium schools because there aren't enough English-medium school places and they cannot afford international school fees.' Under the Basic Law, children in Hong Kong are entitled to nine years free education. 'In reality this is not the case for our children. Many drop out because they can't understand their teachers or the text books,' said Mr Din, a retired civil servant and chairman of the United Muslim Association. He said he welcomed the government's proposed racial discrimination bill but said such 'long overdue' legislation would only be effective if Hong Kong people were educated about racial prejudice.