Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong worried about a form of institutionalised discrimination

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2017, 10:50pm

In his article (“Heed the voices of HK’s ethnic minorities”, March 3), Bernard Chan called for more specialist teaching to build up the Chinese-language skills of minority children. These skills must be built up to a level that will be accepted by most city employers, including the largest employer – the civil service.

The Chinese proficiency of many ethnic minorities of Hong Kong remains at Primary Two or Three mainstream level after 12 years of public education. It is not because they are unwilling to learn, but because the education system has failed them.

The lack of a suitable Chinese curriculum that caters to their learning needs, and embraces diversity and inclusiveness, as well as the shortage of teacher training to cater to second-language learners, seriously hampers the learning of Chinese for these children. I would go further and say that the public education system has been discriminatory.

As noted in the general comment (No 32) of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, treating in an equal manner persons or groups whose situations are objectively different, that is, using Chinese as a first-language approach to teach ethnic minority children whose first language is not Chinese, is discrimination.

Mr Chan says the Race Discrimination Ordinance enacted in 2008 may be one of the reasons ethnic minority issues are gaining attention in society. But the ordinance does not offer the kind of protection it ought to.

Not only is it the weakest of Hong Kong’s four anti-discrimination ordinances, it is the only one that does not bind the government in the performance of its functions or the exercise of its power, that is, in responsibilities such as policing, correctional services, immigration service, and most regulatory responsibilities.

People from the ethnic minority community are worried that there is an institutionalised form of racial discrimination.

For example, they are often disproportionately singled out for detailed searches, identity checks and investigations by police, security and border control personnel, because of their race, colour or ethnicity. The government’s commitment to racial equality must be fully and visibly reflected in how it exercises its powers and functions.

I hope the new administration will ensure racial equality, improve the quality of Chinese-language education for ethnic minority children and amend the Race Discrimination Ordinance to protect ethnic minorities against racial discrimination across all sectors of Hong Kong society.

Phyllis Cheung, director of Hong Kong Unison