Equal Opportunities Commission



“Mentoring Ethnic Minority Youth for Community Participation and Integration”
Organised by KELY Support Group

Speech by Mr LAM Woon-kwong, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission


Mrs. Ngai, KELY’s Board Members, honoured guests, friends,

Thank you for inviting me.

We are here today to launch an innovative initiative to empower our ethnic minority youths. I want to share a few thoughts with you.

Hong Kong takes pride in being a “world” city. Looking around this room, our diversity is evident. Throughout our history, people of different backgrounds have come here not only in search of a place to call home, but also a place where they can build their future. We have been enriched by the various groups who have sought refuge here.

But the irony is that many are facing significant barriers to accessing their rights in Hong Kong, even outright discrimination, being at the receiving end of deeply-embedded, often subconscious, stereotyping and prejudices.

Some of you would doubtlessly remember the anguish it felt to be told, directly or indirectly, that you do not belong.

Even well-intended acts can cut. I remember a story shared by a guest speaker at our youth programme. He is an Indian Sikh, and according to his religious customs, he wears a turban and maintains a beard. In his first job in an American firm, as he was about to relocate to one of their offices in California, he was told by a supervisor that he should consider shaving his beard and taking off his turban to fit in.

The advice was given kindly; perhaps the supervisor meant to help a young man more ably navigate a new culture. But, in his ignorance, the supervisor signaled to this young man that he would not be accepted for who he was, that he would have to give up his values and beliefs in order to get ahead. Luckily for the rest of us, he did neither and still went on to achieve great success. He is currently a regional CEO of a multinational company.

Some of you may have also been told, in a number of small ways, that you too must give up your ways in order to be considered a true “Hongkonger.” You may have been told that it is your fault that you do not belong, that you did not try hard enough.

But do not lose hope.

We should be in control of our own destiny. By joining initiatives such as this project, you are already showing that you are proactively taking the lead to do so. Take advantage of this and other opportunities. You can equip yourself to fight for your rights and to rise above the daily blows towards success. You can equip yourself to face the 21st century. In this increasingly globalised world, with its fierce competition for talent, diversity is strength. If you gear yourself up well, you will be able to better take advantage of future opportunities.

Each of us has our own strengths and capabilities. We must use it not only to better our own situation, but that of others who are also facing difficulties. As you fight for your own rights, you are also strengthening the rights of others.

That is why initiatives such as today’s project is so important: to remind you that you are not alone, that you have a platform for change. There are many who are ready to invest in your success, who are ready to be your support system and a sounding board for your plans.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is among them. We are committed to ensuring that all young people, irrespective of their race, can have the equal opportunity to build a bright future.

In particular, we ask the Government to take the lead to tackle the root causes of inequalities in Hong Kong’s social infrastructure. For instance, the EOC has been advocating for direct action on the current lack of support for ethnic minority children in the mainstream school system, which has serious consequences on their future educational and job prospects. We have urged the Education Bureau to provide an alternative and achievable Chinese curriculum and qualification, and to strengthen Chinese language support from the pre-primary stage. Of course, apart from the language barrier, there are also other systemic hurdles such as access to higher education, employment and lack of integration at the community level. Government must therefore do more.

We also advocated that the skills involved in teaching ethnic minority students should form part of the curriculum for all teachers’ training programmes. In addition, the Commission recommended that respect for diversity, equal opportunity values and human rights education should become one of the core modules for Liberal Studies in the New Senior Secondary Curriculum. We hope, by instilling the values of diversity and inclusion in youths, we would be fostering a friendlier and more equitable society for generations to come.

But we need more help. We need young people to also speak up, to take ownership of these issues, and to challenge stereotypes in their own lives. This can help to educate those who may not have been aware of their own biases. In the long run, we can together chip away at the outdated beliefs tethering us all from our aspirations as an inclusive society.

A quick word of thanks to the mentors, who will generously share their time and guidance over the upcoming months. You are making an investment in our collective future.

Again, thank you for inviting me. May I wish you all a fruitful and productive programme.