It would be almost impossible to find a society where discrimination doesn’t exist. It is just a matter of degree. Hong Kong is no exception.
The problem lies in the perception of some people towards other people of different ethnicity.
Mankind is blessed with diversity but is also characterized by individualism. What is wrong is when people fail to accept diversity in a community and insist on their stereotyped perception of other groups, races or ethnicities.
We all know that treating people based on their ethnicity is sheer stupidity. But unfortunately, such myopic perceptions do exist in our society. It’s regressive, but it’s also a reality.
Remember the controversy a year ago about a local textbook telling pupils to label a domestic worker as Filipino and an English language teacher as British?
Some people may have the wrong perception that all Nepalese and Pakistanis in Hong Kong are guards or logistic workers. They might also think most Indians are curry traders while Africans are poor.
These stereotyped perceptions are in fact dangerous as some people may use them in a derogatory sense. They also hinder people of different ethnicities from availing themselves of the opportunities given to local Chinese.
South Asians from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan were found to have a lower acceptance level than the local Chinese, according to a study prepared by the Zubin Foundation (小彬紀念基金會) and the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law.
The report also found racial hierarchy in Hong Kong: the lighter the skin color, the higher the chances of gaining public acceptance.
That is precisely what has been happening in Hong Kong and it is a very serious flaw in any civilized society.
Ironically, the same perception doesn’t apply to the Caucasian minority and many locals tend to put them on a pedestal. Is it because of a colonial mindset? Fairer skin is superior while swarthier skin is inferior. Such a mindset is really disgraceful.
Whether it is because of sheer lack of proper breeding or total ignorance, it is hard to say, but for a modern, developed and cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong which prides itself as a world-class city, such a perception is inexcusable.
Stamping out prejudice in our society is not only up to the locals but is also the responsibility of relevant authorities who must take all the necessary steps to create a tolerant and considerate society where all can work and live in peace and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
I have no intention whatsoever of creating a controversy here. I have been living in Hong Kong since 1980, my entire adult life has been spent here, and I am writing not out of an illusion but directly from my own experiences.
Looking at the bright side, I can see that the young generations of Hong Kong are more open-minded, tolerant and responsive to people from different ethnicities.
We should take that as a positive development and continue improving on it.
Let’s work together to build a peaceful and racially harmonious society.
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