‘New measures’ on way to help Hong Kong’s ethnic minority residents, No 2 official says
Chief secretary adds government to hold training courses for civil servants to better understand and respect community of some 300,000
Hong Kong’s ethnic minority residents will receive “many new measures” when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor delivers her policy address next Wednesday, the government’s No 2 official has revealed.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung did not elaborate on what schemes would be announced, but told a gathering of social activists on Saturday the government would hold training courses for civil servants to better understand and respect minority residents.
Excluding domestic workers, there are about 300,000 members of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, making up about 4 per cent of the city’s population. They have grappled with several basic challenges, including discrimination, poverty and mastering Chinese so they can get a decent job.
Cheung met 40 representatives from seven concern groups at government headquarters. They handed him a list of measures they wanted to see in place.
The chief secretary chairs the Ethnic Minority Steering Committee operating a budget of HK$500 million (US$63.8 million) to boost support for the local ethnic minority community.
Cheung said his priorities for the community were to improve education levels, employment and their access to public services.
After the meeting, Phyllis Cheung Fung-mei, executive director of the NGO Unison, said Cheung had told them there would be “many new measures for ethnic minorities” unveiled in Lam’s annual policy address next Wednesday.
“We are looking forward to seeing them.”
Encouraged by the chief secretary’s remarks, she added: “These are most of the issues that the ethnic minority community has been talking about. He did not share with us concrete plans, but our time with him was very limited.”
In their petition, the groups asked for more details on the steering committee’s short and long-term goals.
Shoaib Hussain, who works with ethnic minorities for the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, also attended the meeting. He noted the chief secretary told the group that employment opportunities for ethnic minorities were important for career prospects.
“He recognised the second priority is employment. We submitted 400 signatures from the community supporting special and dedicated employment service for ethnic minorities,” Hussain said, describing the city’s current support level as inadequate.
“We think that more individualised and personalised case management employment services could be introduced. The unemployment rate among ethnic minorities is really high, at about 5 per cent, and the poverty rate for ethnic minority working families is very high as compared to the general population.”
Hussain hoped there could be more ethnic minorities employed in government departments and that interpretation services would be strengthened.
Abbas Sairah, also with the Catholic diocese, added: “The language barrier deters us from accessing public services.”
She asked the government to have duty interpreters in hospitals in districts where ethnic minorities live in large numbers, and employ minorities as staff at the Housing Authority and the Social Welfare Department customer service and welfare centres.