15 September 2019
Persistent discrimination means members of ethnic minorities find it difficult in Hong Kong to be fully accepted and to find opportunities to improve their lives. Photo: HKEJ
Persistent discrimination means members of ethnic minorities find it difficult in Hong Kong to be fully accepted and to find opportunities to improve their lives. Photo: HKEJ

Why are minorities not treated equally in Hong Kong?

As long as the global phenomenon of migration continues, discrimination will always be there, as it is in our blood.

We tend to discriminate against those who are weaker, different from and poorer than us.

We are not born racist.

We learn to be prejudiced as we grow up, and eradicating discrimination from society is almost impossible.

I have written and published a whole book about migration and discrimination – Google it, if you like.

The definition of minority can be a broad one, but I am not writing about the privileged white people in Hong Kong.

The main purpose of this article is to highlight the travails of the poor, weak and lowly paid people who are forced to linger on the bottom tier of our society. 

So, why are members of ethnic minority groups not treated equally in Hong Kong?

There are many social, political and geographical reasons, for sure. Here are some.


New immigrants from small, poor and underdeveloped countries can find life here really hard.

They are ill-equipped with the individual, social and professional skills necessary to survive in a modern city like Hong Kong and mostly end up taking lowly paid odd jobs that the locals will not touch.

Such jobs hardly help to improve their living standards. 

Language and culture 

This must probably be the biggest hurdle for new immigrants.

Sometimes, the language and cultural gap is so immense that people get a shock and never recover from it.

Chinese is definitely a very hard language for others to learn.

Being able to communicate is one thing, but becoming proficient in both reading and writing is completely different.

And if you cannot read or write Chinese here in Hong Kong, you have already lost half the battle and you will miss out on much more than just the gossip in the local papers. 

Unity and representation

Owing to financial and other difficulties, it is very hard to have a place like a Chinatown or Little India these days, and new immigrants are forced to live in many different places around the city.

The small number of new immigrants doesn’t help.

They are simply too dispersed to make any significant impact in a densely populated city like Hong Kong.

As a result, they don’t have the much needed unity that would have enable them to have a representative in the local government.

Without a representative, there is no one to speak on their behalf.

And their numbers are simply too small for the government or the locals to care about them.


For many reasons, assimilation into a new society is not easy for all.

It takes a lot of effort from both sides — the locals and the new immigrants — for it to succeed, and Hong Kong seems to be lacking a lot in that particular department.

Admit or not, it is a money-oriented society.

Friendship is mostly limited to business, and — blame the Brits — the notion of superiority among the locals over new immigrants is still pretty widespread.

So, it is really hard for new immigrants to be accepted and treated equally by the locals.

If I myself, as an immigrant living in Hong Kong since 1980, still face such problems on a regular basis, what chance is there for new arrivals?

To the locals, we are and always will be outsiders.

It is not only in Hong Kong.

This problem occurs everywhere in the world.

We cannot do much about it.

The only way out of this conundrum is to improve our lives by all means and try to adjust to the life you are in.

Good luck to all.

Author’s note: Regrettably, my last article drew quite an array of flak from readers. I suggest that those who said I am racist read my previous articles. They will know how much I care about Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities and their rights.

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EJ Insight contributor