Equal Opportunities Commission



Award Presentation Ceremony for Ethnic Minority Students of Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Haking Wong)

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


Ms Chan, Ms Ngan, Teachers, Parents, Students,

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me.

First, congratulations to the award winners. Today, we recognize your hard work and accomplishments. You should all be very proud.

Today, incidentally, was the birthday of an extraordinary woman named Nellie Bly. I want to share a bit of her story with you. Few of you would have heard about her. But if I tell you that she was the first person to travel round the world in less than 80 days, in her attempt to beat the record in the fiction "Around the World in 80 Days", you would have some idea of what kind of person she was. She did it in 72 days in effect, setting the world record back in 1889.

Born almost 150 years ago in the United States, Nellie Bly dreamt of becoming a journalist. But, in those days, women belonged in the home only. A female journalist would have been considered an aberration. Nellie persisted, and was finally given a job at a newspaper. She wrote hard-hitting articles on topics such as the difficulties faced by poor "factory girls," giving voice to a previously silenced group. But, despite her clear investigative prowess, Nellie Bly's editors would only assign her articles on what they considered "women's topics" such as flower shows and fashion.

But Nellie didn't give up. Along the way, she broke records and blazed new trails, including pioneering a new form of undercover, investigative journalism nicknamed "stunt reporting." And she never stopped speaking out on behalf of the oppressed, the impoverished, and the disadvantaged. Her reporting led to reforms in many areas, including care for people with mental illness and child labour. What she did was that she posed as a mental patient and got admitted into a mental hospital. On the experience she had in there, she wrote a book "10 days in a Mental Asylum" which shocked the nation, causing wide reforms to how mental patients were to be treated in the U.S.

Why did I tell you about Nellie Bly? To remind you to never give up in the face of tiresome stereotypes and seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Although we have come a long way since the times of Nellie Bly, prejudice has stubbornly remained.

Yes, some people might make unfair assumptions about you because of your race, gender, disability, or other factors. Some people might tell you that you would not succeed, that the obstacles are too many. As Nellie Bly must have felt during her time, you may sometimes feel that your efforts may only lead to a dead end.

But never give up.

The skills and knowledge you have acquired here at Haking Wong will serve you well. In this increasingly globalised world, the fierce competition for talent will mean that your diverse outlook and abilities will matter more than ever to employers. Keep gearing yourself up to face this rapidly changing environment, you will enjoy much better opportunities in the days to come.

And let's not forget that your experiences will also enable you to help make Hong Kong a fairer City for all. By speaking out against injustice and breaking barriers in your own life, you can inspire others by your example. As Nellie Bly did in her life, you too can be a trailblazer. You too can inspire change. You too can speak up on behalf of others.

Hong Kong is an open city, but injustice remains in many areas. For instance, Nellie Bly's reporting sparked reforms for care of people with mental illness. But in this city, the very recent tragedy involving a man with mental illness and his family reminds us that many people with mental illness still face a great deal of stigma and an insufficient support system. More effort is needed, from the Government and also from all of us, to do better.

What you must do is to make your experience and talent count. Don't be silent. Don't hide. Each of us has our own competitive talent. You can use it to better someone else's life.

So today, we not only celebrate your hard work and achievements. Today, we look forward to a better tomorrow. The achievements you have already made, as seen today, will help to build a stronger, better, and more inclusive Hong Kong for everyone.

Congratulations once again. Thank you, and I wish you all great success.