The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (Thursday, 22 March 2012) announced the findings of the “Study on Racial Encounters and Discrimination Experienced by South Asians” which was undertaken from December 2010 to April 2011 by the Centre for Civil Society and Governance of the University of Hong Kong and Policy 21 Limited.
The Study aimed at collecting information on racial encounters between local Chinese and South Asians including behaviours/conduct leading to unpleasant experience and to discern whether these behaviours/conduct are related to racial discrimination. The Study was based on 19 focus groups interviews, comprising 107 Chinese and South Asian stakeholders who were classified into 5 groups by their status, namely, home-makers, retirees, employees, students, and NGO representatives.
Key Findings of the Survey
- The local Chinese community regarded South Asians as part of the Hong Kong community and believed they were entitled to the same citizenship rights and benefits as local Chinese. South Asians in general did not think discrimination was too serious in Hong Kong, and they admitted that the situation was actually improving in the last ten years.
- However, there has not been a high degree of social integration as there has been very little interaction between local Chinese and South Asians at the individual and family levels. The two key factors that have prevented social interaction between the groups are : the lack of a common language and scant understanding of the others’ cultures.
- The main problems South Asians faced were learning to read and write Chinese for students and finding employment for adults.
- Education -------- Many South Asian students found learning written Chinese too difficult and they were forced to give it up when they did not receive adequate help. Limited knowledge of spoken and written Chinese has turned out to be a major factor against them in job seeking and tertiary education, as Chinese language is a standard entrance requirement for both employment and further studies. Besides, the medium of instruction in vocational training institutes was mostly Chinese, thus limiting South Asian students’ choices of studies.
- Employment ------- The most common types of discrimination against South Asians adults were related to finding employment and on-the-job treatment. Some South Asians regarded the requirement of knowing written Chinese for manual jobs like dish-washing, laundry, cleaning and construction, unreasonable. They pointed out that the Chinese language requirement after the handover in 1997 had essentially restricted their chances of becoming civil servants. Some of them felt being treated unequally by their employers as they were assigned to “3D” jobs ---- dangerous, difficult and dirty ---- more frequently than their Chinese colleagues.
- Social interaction --------- South Asians were offended by manners such as covering one’s nose in the proximity of a South Asian, and avoiding sitting next to a South Asian on public transport. But Chinese people who exhibited these behaviours might not be entirely aware that most South Asians found them rude and insulting.
- Provision of goods, services and facilities --------- Though South Asians had not been denied services in restaurants and shops, some of them reported that it was difficult for them to open a personal bank account and to get a credit card. As the banks had few legitimate reasons to refuse them the service, they therefore regarded it as a possible case of racial discrimination. Many South Asians also found it hard to rent residential flats and commercial offices. Real estate agents often discouraged them, telling them that Chinese property owners did not want to lend their properties to South Asians.
The Chairperson of the EOC, Mr. LAM Woon-kwong, said, “The Study obviously shows that South Asians face hardships in various areas, especially employment and education. They are the minority groups whose well-being and prospect of social inclusion are disadvantaged.”
Mr. LAM pointed out, “It is well recognized that language barrier is the biggest hurdle for the ethnic minorities to integrate into the Hong Kong community. This reminds policy makers and educators of the importance of designing effective programmes for ethnic minorities to overcome the language barrier.”
To enhance social integration of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, the EOC recommends the followings : -
- The Government should take the lead to employ ethnic minorities by relaxing the Chinese language requirement in certain disciplines in civil service recruitment.
- Interflow workshops should be organized to relay the practices and customs of South Asians to Chinese employers and inform South Asians of the expectations of Chinese employers.
- The Vocational Training Council should formulate a larger variety of placement-tied courses for ethnic minorities and assess if the requirement of proficiency in written Chinese language is needed for a specific post.
- The Labour Department should make it a rule for all job vacancy notices to be written in both Chinese and English.
- Pre-primary language support programmes should be strengthened to help ethnic minority children to integrate in the mainstream schools.
- The Education Bureau should develop an alternative curriculum and assessment for ethnic minority students learning Chinese as a second language.
- Cultural-sensitivity training for educators should be strengthened. Schools should provide non-Chinese speaking parents with alternative means of communication.
- Universities should flexibly relax the Chinese language requirement in the admission of ethnic minorities. There should be more varieties in vocational and re-employment training courses for non-Chinese speaking groups.
- Social Interaction
- To encourage ethnic minorities and Chinese to participate in cross-cultural activities and the publicity materials of these events should also be given in English.
- Home Affairs Bureau / Department should spearhead substantial, organized and well-funded community programmes for South Asians.
- To build mixed social networks among South Asians and Chinese communities through the District Councils and District Offices.
- To increase the visibility of ethnic minorities in the mass media.
- Provision of goods, services and facilities
- More publicity programmes should be formulated for providers of goods, services and facilities so as to enhance their sensitivity of cultural differences and eliminate discrimination.
Following the findings of the Study, the EOC is launching extensive publicity campaigns to promote and spread the message of racial harmony as follows :
- Radio programmes to promote inclusion and diversity
- School drama performances on racial harmony
- Financing ethnic minority groups to organize activities that promote equal opportunities and racial harmony
- Regular outreach activities with community and religious organizations
- Publications in various ethnic minority languages covering the four anti-discrimination ordinances
- Talk on the Race Discrimination Ordinance for employers, employees, NGOs and community groups.
For media enquiry, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.
Equal Opportunities Commission
22 March 2012