How racist is Hong Kong? It very much depends on who you ask. A foreign domestic helper and a South Asian would likely give a very different answer than a local Chinese or a European expat. Looking at the latest complaint figures from the Equal Opportunities Commission, the number of incidents seems to have jumped over the past decade. That’s the bad news. But, examining the numbers more closely, the spikes seem to have been largely caused by mainland-Hong Kong conflicts rather than discrimination against local ethnic minority groups. Nonetheless, that’s contentious; could some acts be considered racially discriminatory if directed only at mainlanders? The number of complaints lodged with the EOC increased to 327 in 2020, from just 64 in 2010. In 2012, there were 43 complaints; in 2014, 39; in 2016, 202; and in 2018, 69. You have two big jumps, in 2016 and 2020, both of which happened to relate to Hong Kong-mainland conflicts. In 2016, 174 complaints related to racial vilification against mainland Chinese from the oath-taking antics of several newly elected lawmakers, who used derogatory or racially charged words against China and Chinese. All of them were subsequently disqualified, not for racial discrimination but for failing to complete their oaths properly. Last year, the situation was reversed. Of the 327 complaints, 219 were filed against the EOC itself! They were in response to the commission’s warning that the refusal of some local restaurants and shops to serve Mandarin speakers might amount to discrimination. Clearly, they were part of the widespread protests against the Hong Kong government and the rest of the country, including mainland visitors. Leaving out such “political” complaints and to compare apples with apples, there were actually just 28 complaints in 2016 and 108 in 2020. Most of them have to do with the provision of goods and services, followed by employment and housing. One reason for the increase may simply be that members of ethnic minority communities now make up more than 8 per cent of the local population, including foreign domestic helpers, from just 5.1 per cent in 2001. According to an EOC study in 2016, language barrier is a key factor in racial discrimination, as only 46 per cent of the minority members could speak Cantonese and only 35 per cent could read Chinese. It’s hard to know if we are a racist society, but we probably haven’t become more racist in the past two decades – unless we count local animosity against mainlanders.