21 July 2019
Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong continue to face discrimination when it comes to services and amenities, says a new study. Photo: HKEJ
Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong continue to face discrimination when it comes to services and amenities, says a new study. Photo: HKEJ

Discrimination still rampant against ethnic minorities, says EOC

A study has found that ethnic minorities often face discrimination in Hong Kong when it comes to the supply of banking and housing-related services in the city.

According to the study conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), ethnic minorities encounter problems in matters such as opening new bank accounts and renting and buying real estate.

The discrimination, which is particularly targeted at non-whites, affects the minorities’ ability to avail of basic services and marks a violation of their rights as individuals, it said.

The EOC said it has notified the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to remind banks on suitable actions to address problems related to the sector.

The watchdog said it conducted a study from April to July in a bid to assess discrimination against ethnic minorities in the provision of goods, services and amenities in the city.

It said the exercise was also aimed at digging deeper into how different stakeholders handled the discrimination issues, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

A research team collected data through various means, including talking to those who have been discriminated against in the past, appearing as customers before service providers, and holding group discussions with service providers and sellers.

The findings showed that ethnic minorities commonly faced racial discrimination when renting or buying property.

Property agents admitted that some Asian realty owners refuse to rent their properties to ethnic minorities.

The reasons for refusal range from doubts whether the people will pay the rent punctually to fears that they may cause nuisance to neighbors, through activities such as cooking spicy food.

Unveiling the report, EOC Director Ferrick Chu said there are too many stereotypes about ethnic minorities.

For example, people blame south Asians for cooking curry and causing pungent smell in apartment buildings.

Before pointing fingers at others, one should look at their own cuisine, Chu said, pointing out that Sichuan dishes, for instance, can smell just as pungent.

As for banking-related issues, some ethnic minorities have been turned away by lenders when attempting to open new savings accounts. That is despite the applicants having all the required documents as well as Hong Kong residency.

Other situations of discrimination include being refused entry to fitting rooms or being subjected to bag checks when leaving retail outlets.

The EOC study says that 44 percent of ethnic minority inspectors faced discrimination when they posed as customers in a bid to compare services.

Meanwhile, only 24 percent Caucasian inspectors faced discrimination. 

The EOC has received 45 complaints in 2014 and 48 such cases last year, mainly related to supply of goods, services, facilities, land or an interest in land.

Chu said ethnic minorities are often reluctant to file complaints, with some people not aware of the procedures and some staying away due to the fear of being seen as trouble-makers.

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