Ethnic minority youth find comfort in a more accepting Hong Kong
Barriers remain, but students being groomed for future leadership roles say Hong Kong is becoming more multicultural and accepting
At a Kwun Tong secondary school, 30 form five students are learning skills that could see them end up as leaders of the city's ethnic minority groups.
In a week that saw the administration pledge HK$200 million to teach Chinese as a second language for ethnic minority children, a local NGO was wrapping up a one-year mentoring programme that directly addresses some of the gaps for ethnic minority youth.
The KELY support group, which stands for Kids Everywhere Like You, started the programme in December 2012 and the first group of youngsters will graduate today at a ceremony in Hung Hom.
Thirty young people were matched with accomplished community figures - such as former chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission Lam Woon-kwong - with information and skills exchange at the heart of the programme.
The students also spent the year putting together a project in one of three mediums - video, print media and photography - with the works forming an exhibition that opens today at Polytechnic University. A second intake has already started.
One of those graduating today is Hong Kong-born Nepali Rabin Chetri, 16.
Speaking fluent Cantonese, he said growing up in Hong Kong had taught him patience, but the lesson was learned not in the classroom but on the basketball court.
"It takes time, but when the Chinese players get to know you, they accept you and you become friends," Rabin said. "People have different perceptions. It could have been something that happened to them in the past, but the best thing is if you can change that."
Rabin said discrimination was waning in the city.
Fellow graduate Sonia Javaid, 17, agreed. "The younger generations are much more accepting," she said.
Sonia moved from Pakistan when she was one. She speaks fluent Cantonese and Urdu. "I feel more comfortable with Chinese than English," she said.
Sonia urged the government to address the issue of university entrance exams that require a high standard of spoken and written Chinese so ethnic minorities were not disadvantaged.
For Harpreet Kaur, 17, the KELY programme taught her new skills, such as how to conduct herself in a job interview. "Hong Kong is really multicultural and it's easy to get to know each other," she said.