“We Are Hong Kong: Racial Equality in Action” – in Observation of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2015 Launch Ceremony
Speech by Dr York CHOW, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
First, I would like to welcome all of you and offer my sincere thanks for being here with us to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2015. We are entering the 50th year since this day was first proclaimed, so it is an opportune moment for us to reflect on our progress.
It is heartening to see here a wide range of key stakeholders, including our Guest of Honour, the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor CHEUNG; senior Government officials; members of the consular corps; school principals; leaders of various ethnic and religious communities; and representatives from NGOs. Indeed, to achieve this mutual goal of eliminating racial prejudice and discrimination, we must commit to collaborative partnerships across different sectors. We are deeply grateful for the visible support for this important cause shown today.
We chose the theme “We Are Hong Kong: Racial Equality in Action” this year because we want to highlight the diversity that makes up Hong Kong’s population and the crucial contributions made to this city’s growth by the various communities who call Hong Kong their home. In doing so, we hope to challenge old stereotypes about ethnic minorities and encourage everyone, irrespective of their ethnic background, to embrace a more inclusive definition of what makes a “Hongkonger”.
Certainly, much remains to be done. Many in the ethnic minority communities continue to face a number of challenges in their daily life, from employment to education to access to housing and other necessary services. More structured and systematic support is required, beginning with enabling minorities learn Chinese as a Second Language. In recognition of the fact that unequal access to learning has serious repercussions on one’s long-term prospects, the EOC has named ensuring equal opportunities in education and employment for ethnic minorities one of our strategic priority work areas.
We must also promote cultural sensitivity and inclusive values, particularly from an early age, by encouraging more cross-cultural interactions which can organically nurture friendships across different groups. I learned this from personal experience, having grown up in a multicultural environment. As a boy, I had many friends from different backgrounds. As we studied, played sports together, and developed lifelong friendships, what was spontaneously cultivated was cross-cultural competence and an open mind. These same opportunities should be afforded more broadly among our youngsters today.
We all can do our part. We can speak out against everyday stereotypes and injustice. We can ensure that our workplaces and schools are inclusive environments that allow each individual to fulfil their potential. We can set policies and practices which express our commitment to non-discrimination. And we can proactively reach out to learn, to listen, and to exchange ideas.
We believe the challenges are not insurmountable if we work together. The EOC looks forward to continuing our collaboration with you as we endeavour to put racial equality in action, and into reality.