Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

As Legco elections loom, city’s ethnic minorities are out in cold

Hong Kong prides itself as an inclusive society yet when it comes to politics, non-Chinese are shunned by government and those aspiring to hold office

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2016, 4:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2016, 4:29am

The Legislative Council elections are only days away, yet eligible voters who are non-Chinese speakers might as well be invisible. From voter registration to access to candidates’ platforms, they seem to have been left out in the cold.

If a recent survey co-conducted by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services is any reference, seven in 10 ethnic minority residents who are eligible to register as voters said they had no idea how to do so. Others shunned registration as they could not identify anyone who could represent them, or they were simply unfamiliar with the electoral system.

It’s time our legislature reflected our self-image as an international city

While the government website has polling information in languages such as Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and Urdu, details for voter registration are in Chinese and English only. This is probably why fewer than half of the eligible ethnic minority residents are registered to vote, compared to 74 per cent of the overall population.

Even though the survey showed that more than half of those who had signed up were prepared to vote, the language barrier remained an issue. Take the election materials in the so-called “super seats” battle as an example. Seven of the nine contesting teams in the city-wide district council constituency do not include ethnic minority issues in their platforms. Their campaign leaflets are usually available only in Chinese.

Ethnic minority citizens have almost the same political rights as local Chinese. But despite an estimated population of more than 140,000, their voices are woefully lacking in elected office and government advisory bodies. The under-representation inevitably dampens their incentive to participate in politics, which in turn undermines their interests.

More than half of Hong Kong ethnic minority electors likely to vote, but many others don’t know how to register

The situation sits oddly with the city’s commitment to inclusiveness, diversity and pluralism. The responsibility to reach out to ethnic minority communities is as much for the government as for the candidates. Citizens need to be engaged before they feel their political participation will make a difference.