District council very reluctant to provide information in English

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 May, 2015, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 May, 2015, 6:00pm

In his letter on Lee Kuan Yew ("Lee was adamant that Singapore must go its own way to survive", April 6), Holden Chow of the Young Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong , said Singapore had "benefited so much from the use of English, as it connects it to the rest of the world, especially Western countries, and offers a common language for people with different ethnic and racial backgrounds. This is crucial to maintaining social harmony in a multiracial country."

His party obviously does not consider Hong Kong to be a multiracial society. In our district, Yau Tsim Mong, minority residents, 12 per cent of the local population (2011 Census), have to continually fight for the right to community information in the lingua franca, understood by most non-Chinese, and, in some cases, the mother tongue of residents of Chinese ethnicity.

On one occasion when an independent district councillor supported our demand to access to district council papers in English, DAB councillors at the meeting derided our request.

While there has been some improvement, we find we are constantly being left out of the loop when it comes to the dissemination of information on matters of public interest.

Last month we found yet another example of how local residents who do not read Chinese, and this includes Chinese residents who were educated overseas and cannot read characters, are denied information to public services.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is operating a coin collection programme. Its vehicles park in local neighbourhoods and give members of the public Octopus credits in exchange for coins handed over.

The so-called coin carts will be in our district at the end of June.

As many minorities run small businesses we can assume that some of them would be delighted to offload their excess coins, accumulated over the years.

However, the banner promoting the service is all in Chinese. The only information in English is DAB and Yau Tsim Mong District Council.

No wonder Hong Kong is falling behind Singapore in every respect when local decision makers display a narrow focus and ignore the benefits our society could reap from a more international and inclusive outlook.

Paul Kumar, for Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group