Hong Kong
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A view of pedestrians in Tsim Sha Tsui in 2018. People from different backgrounds have made Hong Kong their home, and awareness of racial harmony ought be raised. Photo: Fung Chang

Letters | A world city like Hong Kong should be more sensitive to subtle racism

  • Readers discuss how Hongkongers need to be more conscious of the ethnic minorities in their midst, and why treading carefully around the status quo is unhealthy in society
Hong Kong
Feel strongly about these letters, or any other aspects of the news? Share your views by emailing us your Letter to the Editor at [email protected] or filling in this Google form. Submissions should not exceed 400 words, and must include your full name and address, plus a phone number for verification.

Hong Kong is a global city and once the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic fade, I am sure it will once again attract talent from all over the world.

People from different backgrounds have made Hong Kong their home, as have I. After a decade here, I have integrated myself into society. I personally have never found it difficult or felt like an alien, apart from a few incidents, but I have heard from friends that many feel discriminated against in “Asia’s World City” because of their skin colour.

The discrimination here, unlike elsewhere, is subtle. There is a tendency among some Hongkongers to prefer Caucasians and show dislike for people with darker skin. I have heard from friends that the seat beside them on public transport usually remains empty. They are well-dressed as they usually work for multinationals, and yet their skin tone seems to take precedence over their contribution to society. Locals have no problem speaking to a gweilo in broken English but with a South Asian, they appear impatient. I was once rejected for a rental because South Asians cook “curry”.

I wouldn’t say this discrimination is targeted at a specific group. Anybody who looks different and doesn’t have fairer skin might have faced some sort of discrimination in this city. Sometimes I feel people don’t even realise they are being mean to others. Is it an innate dislike or just lack of information and awareness of other ethnicities?

There is an Equal Opportunities Commission, as well as an anti-racism law, in Hong Kong, but how many know of them? What has actually been done to raise awareness of living in harmony, without judgment? However, I feel grateful for so many of my experiences in Hong Kong, and I can confidently say nobody gets discriminated against in this city because of their religious beliefs.
We have seen ethnic minorities rising to the occasion when Hong Kong needs them: they are in the police force, or serve as firefighters, and many in high-ranking jobs pay huge amounts in taxes. Just because they have a dark skin tone doesn’t make them less important and they love Hong Kong with their heart and soul too.

Fortunately, the people who discriminate are not the majority. I have friends and acquaintances who have embraced me with open arms, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to stay here for a decade. There needs to be a greater government effort to raise awareness of this and build a harmonious society.

Munira Rahman, Tung Chung

If left to Hong Kong society, would foot-binding persist?

Student Nathan Lam Chak-chun’s attempt to overturn a school rule banning long hair for boys has got nowhere so far. Lam, a Form Six student, who prefers to be referred to as a “she” and says she has gender dysphoria, said she might take legal action against the school.

Lam first made headlines in July when, after filing a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission, she uploaded a video to Instagram making public her challenge against the long-standing school ban.

The video went viral, attracting nearly 380,000 views within a day. It also drew many comments, many in support, but there were some that criticised her for trying to set a precedent that could lead to a breakdown in school discipline. As a member of society, they said, Nathan should accept the school rule as they themselves had.

Such views are toxic to the development of an open society.

Lam argued that the school rule against long hair promoted gender inequality and discrimination. But instead of studying her arguments, people criticised her for challenging the status quo. They said that as a student, she should not challenge her superiors and the school.

In that case, abhorrent traditions like foot-binding would still be with us. This was a custom with a long history, supported by many in the upper classes. Why was it abolished then? Because people dared to speak up against it and fight for its abolition. Were they out to change the rules? Yes. But when we look back now, we believe they did the right thing.

What is worse is that even though some people agreed with Lam, they suggested she let things be.

For society to improve, conflicting opinions must be allowed space for debate. This way we can ensure society becomes what we want it to be. By suppressing others, or even our own voices, how can society fix its own problems?

When there is a different point of view, why don’t we all sit down and have a civil discussion before doling out criticism? Blindly making decisions due to past beliefs and practices will definitely not lead to improvements in society.

Annette Ho, North Point