Equal Opportunities Commission



Luncheon to Celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr[1]
Organised by International Islamic Society

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


Mr. Qamar, honored guests, friends,
Eid Mubarak[2] to you and your family.

I am honoured to be here. Thank you for inviting me to share in this joyous occasion.

Hong Kong has had a long and harmonious relationship with the Muslim community, with the first mosque built on Shelley Street in Central some 160 years ago. Throughout the years, your contributions to this city have been numerous. I want to extend my congratulations to the International Islamic Society for the central role you have played in nurturing this relationship and uniting this city’s Muslims.

Looking at the diversity in this room, I am reminded once again of the ability of a common faith to unite people across racial and cultural lines.

When my Muslim colleagues at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) heard that I am speaking here today, they mentioned that in each country, local customs may have an influence on the way Eid is celebrated. For instance, in Indonesia, a traditional food item made only for Eid celebrations is “katupat” or rice cooked inside coconut leaves, while in Pakistan, a special sweet dish called Sheer Khorma is eaten as breakfast after prayers.

But despite these small differences, Muslims throughout the world are united on this day in celebration and reflection. On this joyous occasion, all Muslims, no matter their origin, are encouraged to forgive, to empathise, to lend themselves in the service of those in need.

These values resonate, I think, in Hong Kong. Although this is a city that works hard for its money, we have never had a shortage of people who would give up their time to champion the cause of those who are disadvantaged or to promote equality and fairness.

The Muslim community in Hong Kong has been exemplary in this regard. I have had the opportunity to work with a few people present in this room, such as the Society’s current president, Mr. Qamar, or your past president, Mr. Saeed, in their capacity as Board Members of the EOC.

Certainly, today’s celebration is also a reminder of how Hong Kong’s diversity has strengthened us. As a migrants’ city, we have had a long history of openness, of being a refuge. We have been enriched by those who have come here to build a brighter future.

This desire to build a better life for ourselves and for our loved ones is common, I think, to all of us. Despite our different backgrounds, in the end, we share a desire to live in peace, to be treated as equals, and to have the opportunity to find success.

Indeed, the many communities of Hong Kong have given much to Hong Kong’s growth and accomplishments by sharing their many ideas and talents.

What’s more, the exchange of thoughts and traditions has prepared us to excel as we propel into the future. In this increasingly borderless world, the ability to thrive across cultures will be priceless.

The EOC believes that, in an inclusive society, everyone should have the equal opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families. I am aware that these positive values are familiar to Muslims as mutual respect, empathy, and equality are important principles in Islam.

The EOC and the Government have been working towards this goal of diversity and inclusion in Hong Kong. We are concerned, for instance, that many students of ethnic minority backgrounds still face difficulties attaining a quality education in Hong Kong, and the EOC has made equal access to education one of our focal areas.

We have been advocating to the Government to implement the recommendations from our Working Group on opening up educational opportunities, including creating an alternative learning and assessment framework for Chinese. The Commission will continue to advocate and fight for this cause.

The EOC also recently published a study on racial encounters and discrimination experienced by South Asians. One of our key findings from that study was that there was very little interaction between Chinese and South Asians at the individual and family level. Apart from the language barrier, the study found that the limited cultural understanding was the key obstacle to social integration.

This last point applies, I think, to all groups. When there is no common ground for interaction, assumptions and biases are easily formed, to the detriment of all of us.

This is why I am grateful to be invited here today. It is through moments like this, when one community so generously shares their culture and traditions with others, that we form the foundation for greater understanding and mutual respect – all key ingredients to racial equality and a harmonious society.

It is also an important reminder of all that we do share, despite our different backgrounds or outward appearances.

So on this day of celebration, the EOC looks forward to continuing our cooperation with you: to promote our common value of equality and our collective responsibility of creating a better and fairer Hong Kong for all.

Thank you, and may I once again wish you all a blessed festival. 

[1] “Eid-ul-Fitr” is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

[2] “Eid Mubarak” is a traditional greeting for use on the festivals of Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr. Translated into English (from Arabic) as “Blessed Festival” or “May you enjoy a blessed festival”.