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Police project helping Hong Kong ethnic minorities learn Cantonese sees 460 people enrol

Promoting interest in disciplined services and boosting community ties eyed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 3:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:49pm

A project in Yuen Long to provide Cantonese language support to ethnic minorities and promote their interest in joining the Hong Kong Police Force has attracted 460 participants, an instructor revealed on Sunday.

Several participants of Project Himalaya have joined the force and other disciplined services, police officer Abdul Faisal said.

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Faisal, an instructor in the project, is a Muslim of Pakistani origin who speaks fluent Cantonese. He was among the first people from an ethnic minority group in Hong Kong to become a police inspector after 1997.

Ethnic minority members might feel closer to me because of my skin colour
Abdul Faisal, police officer

“Ethnic minority members might feel closer to me because of my skin colour,” Faisal said. “They might feel more confident in mastering the language when they see that I can do it, too.”

Faisal’s grandfather was a police officer in Hong Kong back in the British colonial era. His father was born in Hong Kong, and Faisal speaks Cantonese with his family. He grew up studying Chinese in a local school and took the former A-levels examination in Form 7.

The project offers weekly Chinese classes and a mentorship programme to enhance language proficiency and boost confidence in joining the force, according to Beco Lee Pak-ho of the Police Community Relations Office in Yuen Long.

Lee hoped the activities could help enhance participants’ sense of social responsibility and strengthen community ties.

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Similar projects include Project Gemstone, which offers language support to non-Chinese officers in other districts, Lee noted.

According to the Equal Opportunities Commission, about 5 per cent of Hong Kong’s population are ethnically non-Chinese. An earlier study by the commission suggested non-white ethnic minorities such as Indians, Malays, Nigerians and Pakistanis encountered considerable discrimination in the city, particularly in financial and housing services.

In 2015, a study by the Hong Kong Institute of Education showed poverty rates of all four ethnic minority categories in the city – including Pakistani, Nepalese, mixed Chinese and Asian families as well as families from other racial backgrounds – had increased by varying degrees between 2001 and 2011.

Pakistani families had the highest poverty rate and their situation had worsened. Their poverty rate increased 10.5 percentage points to 59.6 per cent in the past decade.

The researchers noted that ethnic minorities were often disadvantaged in education and employment compared to Chinese, as a result of limited language opportunities and cultural differences. Children growing up in these families often stood a higher chance of being poor.