Hong Kong must work harder to improve racial harmony and tolerance
In recent years, there have been success stories circulating in various forms of media about Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities.
They range from the “hero policeman” who saved a person from committing suicide to Hong Kong’s first ethnic minority taxi driver. The Post recently featured a list of successful ethnic minorities with positive contributions to Hong Kong society. Sharing these stories is extremely important not only to demonstrate the positive impact of diversity in a territory promoting itself as Asia’s world city, but also to empower other ethnic minorities in their potential for upward social mobility. However, these stories need to be presented with caution so as not to depict a rose-coloured view and to protect against falling into the trap of tokenism.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines tokenism as the “practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce”. Hong Kong is not unique in grappling with tokenism and racial discrimination, yet it can do more in the policy arena to improve racial acceptance in the city, guiding denizens towards tolerance and creating opportunities for its underserved population.
Ordinary members of society can also make a difference. Moving beyond the hubris of ethnocentrism allows for engaging authentically with fellow citizens. By appreciating differences, we can also find common ground and work towards social cohesion. There are pockets of Hong Kong where this takes place, but institutional and systemic changes can amplify the impact to achieve the social harmony Hong Kong so deeply seeks. This is not an appeal for a campfire kumbaya; rather, it is a critical issue in an era of increasing global insecurity with the
re-emergence of nativism and ethnocentrism leading to varying forms of instability.
Hong Kong’s theme for its 20th anniversary as a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China is “Together, Progress, Opportunity”. I believe in the possibility of a more economically and socially inclusive SAR. I hope Hong Kong can move beyond tokenism towards progress, working together with ethnic minorities and sharing in opportunities for mutual prosperity in Asia’s world city.
Narine Kerelian, PhD student, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong