How Hong Kong will spend the HK$500 million earmarked for support of its ethnic minorities
- Matthew Cheung says the raft of measures aimed at fostering ethnic minority integration into wider society, and giving them a lift in upward mobility, will focus on education, employment and access to public services
Hong Kong is an open, vibrant, international and pluralistic city where East meets West. This distinctive feature underlines our ability of blending harmony with diversity.
At present, some 263,000 people from non-Chinese ethnic minority groups live in Hong Kong (excluding the 380,000-plus foreign domestic helpers). Of these, some 80,000 are South Asians.
Hong Kong’s ethnic minority population forms an integral part of our community and has become increasingly prominent in society. Many members of the ethnic minority groups have their roots in Hong Kong. Over the past decade, their numbers have grown by a remarkable 70 per cent; they now represent 3.8 per cent of our total population.
The Hong Kong government attaches great importance to helping ethnic minority groups integrate into the wider community, and much effort has been made in the past few years to cater to their needs in diverse areas, including education, employment and social participation. At the same time, the government has been working to enhance local Chinese understanding of ethnic minority cultures.
A high-level steering committee on ethnic minorities affairs chaired by the chief secretary was set up in July to enhance cross-bureau collaboration on support for ethnic minorities. The steering committee has been leaving no stone unturned in engaging stakeholders and the relevant non-governmental organisations that share a common concern about the well-being of ethnic minorities, and listening carefully to their views on how the government could better support our ethnic monorities community.
Such views have helped the steering committee draw up a comprehensive package of measures, which were announced in the chief executive’s policy address. From the next financial year onwards, the government will spend more than HK$500 million to implement a wide range of new or strengthened measures to enhance the well-being of ethnic minorities, covering education, employment and access to public services.
For the next school year, the government will provide subsidies to kindergartens that join the kindergarten education scheme and admit non-Chinese-speaking students, as well as additional funding and professional support for government-funded secondary schools that admit non-Chinese-speaking students.
Children with special educational needs will also get more support. Special care centres and early education and training centres will receive subsidies to strengthen support for preschool ethnic minority children with special needs. In addition, government-funded schools will also have more resources to support non-Chinese-speaking students with special needs.
Another raft of measures will focus on strengthening ethnic minorities’ competitiveness in the job market and supporting their upward mobility. The government will collaborate with NGOs to launch a pilot programme to provide employment services for ethnic minority jobseekers, and enhance retraining support for ethnic minorities.
Even ethnic minority students are not left out: the administration will introduce a pilot internship programme within the government for these future jobseekers to gain some experience.
Last but not least, many measures will be in place to enhance ethnic minorities’ access to public services:
- Enhance interpretation services at various service centres.
- Improve the administrative guidelines on the promotion of racial equality, for application to all government bureaus and departments, as well as related organisations providing services to ethnic minorities.
- Provide civil servants with training on cultural sensitivity and equal opportunities.
- Set up teams comprising ethnic minorities to reach out to the wider ethnic minority community, to improve their access to welfare services.
- Set up specialised ethnic minority units in the resource centres that provide support to the carers of people with disabilities.
- Increase resources for special childcare centres, as well as early education and training centres, to step up community support for ethnic minority families in need.
- Allocate more resources to NGOs to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual violence, to encourage victims to seek help.
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These measures demonstrate the government’s continuous and unwavering support to Hong Kong’s ethnic minority community and its determination to develop Hong Kong into an inclusive society where different ethnic groups can thrive and shine.
To promote social inclusion, the Home Affairs Department will organise more district-based activities to encourage interaction between ethnic minorities and local communities. Our disciplined forces will also enhance interaction with ethnic minority children and young people through their school-based outreach programmes.
We value the views of ethnic minorities and have made every effort to bring their voices into the government. A number of government advisory committees, including the Commission on Children, the Youth Development Commission and the Human Resources Planning Commission, have taken the lead to appoint ethnic minorities as members.
The new measures are expected to improve the existing support services and bridge the gaps in our current ethnic minority support network. The steering committee on ethnic minority affairs will oversee and closely monitor their implementation. We hope the whole community can join hands with the government in enhancing support for Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities and building a truly harmonious and inclusive Hong Kong.
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung is chief secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region