Given the racial homogeneity of Hong Kong's population, it's little wonder there isn't a history of blatant celluloid stereotyping along the lines of Hollywood's mammies, squaws and blackface minstrels. But while there has been a steep decline in such portrayals in US cinema in the past 50 years and many movies that have tackled the issue across the Pacific, the 'non-issue' of non-Chinese on Chinese screens indicates an even more pervasive, if less virulent, strain of the racism bug here. It's been that way since Hong Kong movies began. Despite being a British colony with an influential and visible European and Asian presence, the communities rarely mixed on films made years before and after the second world war. Occasionally, one might have seen a Sikh guard, usually played by a Chinese with dark makeup, or a group of Caucasian revellers, such as the customers who joined nightclub singer Grace Chang or a chorus of 'Jajambo' in Wild, Wild Rose (1960). For a more multifaceted approach to Hong Kong's expats, you'd have to look at Hollywood features such as Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) or The World of Suzie Wong (1960), which unsurprisingly presented a western view of the Orient. In the postwar era, the Japanese were the only non-Chinese ethnicity to enjoy a relatively steady if schizophrenic presence in Hong Kong movies. The relationship was very much of the love-hate variety, with formulaically sadistic soldiers a staple of war sagas, while Sino-Japanese romances blossomed in contemporary tales like A Night in Hong Kong (1961) and Hong Kong, Tokyo, Hawaii (1963). In terms of rabid stereotypes, Hong Kong films were far more benign than their counterparts on the mainland. In the newly founded People's Republic, the US was the great enemy, and movies did their best to demonise the western devils. A typical example is Friendship (1959), a Korean war drama that included such inflammatory scenes as snarling GIs (played by heavily made-up Chinese extras) gunning down pregnant peasants. Most curious of all was Window of America (1952), based on a Soviet play and filmed on studio sets in Shanghai, in which the entire Chinese cast portrayed New Yorkers dismayed by the vicissitudes of capitalism. Hong Kong's movies, lacking a similar political motivation, kept foreigners largely in the background - when they appeared at all. There have only been a few exceptions in which non-Chinese have had prominent roles, or Chinese stars played non-Chinese roles. A recent example of the latter is Himalaya Star (2005), with Ronald Cheng Chung-kei essaying the title character's Indian yogi (below). The best that can be said is that his portrayal was no less offensive than that of the movie's 'pure' Chinese characters. As for Hong Kong movies with non-Chinese (or non-Japanese) in the leads, among the most noteworthy is Crazy Hong Kong (1993), which plucked The Gods Must Be Crazy's N!xau out of the African bush and dropped him into our urban jungle. The results weren't so much racist as they were middling, the director often ditching the N!xau plotline to focus on the amorous adventures of Carina Lau Ka-ling and Cecilia Yip Tung. Needless to say, they did not venture outside their own race when hunting for love. Not so Gregory Charles River, who was given a rare chance to engage in an interracial romance in Her Fatal Ways IV (1994). (They didn't end up living happily ever after, though.) Action films, on the other hand, frequently look on foreigners as treacherous adversaries. From Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury (1972) to Jet Li's Fearless (2006), Japanese, American, and European opponents are stereotypically evil and no match for the moral and martial superiority of the Chinese hero. There's no escaping the fact that the vast majority of Hong Kong's celluloid gringos are minor figures. My own bit parts are an example: high-ranking police official in The Inspector Wears Skirts IV (1992), Fight Back to School II (1992) and Final Option (1994); colonial opium dealer in 1992's Once Upon a Time a Hero in China; colonial judge in Lawyer Lawyer (1997); British consul in Once Upon a Time in China II (1992); wine connoisseur in The Spirit of the Dragon (1998); Mormon missionary in Tri-Star (1996) and French bookstore owner in Drink Drank Drunk (2005). Only once, in Alan and Eric: Between Hello and Goodbye (1991) was I cast as a friend, someone who hung out with the leads and whose ethnicity wasn't the defining characteristic. Recent years have seen a slightly higher visibility of the minorities in 'normal' roles. Gill Mohindepaul Singh (aka Kiu Bo-bo), in particular, broke new ground a few months ago with his turn in The Moss, playing a criminal leader whose race barely mattered. It's a far cry from Himalaya Star, and an indication that Hong Kong may not be as averse as some producers assume when it comes to viewing non-stereotypical non-Chinese.