22 July 2019
The Hong Kong government should provide more support to ethnic minorities through Cantonese-learning and job-training programs. Photos: Tse Chi-tak, HKEJ
The Hong Kong government should provide more support to ethnic minorities through Cantonese-learning and job-training programs. Photos: Tse Chi-tak, HKEJ

7 things HK govt should do to support ethnic minorities

The notion of Hong Kong being a money-oriented society isn’t new, but social issues play a significant role in the well-being of a society, and neglecting that aspect is not only unwise but can also have unfortunate consequences.

The local media has been busy lately with stories about problems faced by ethnic minorities.

Some reports blame them as the main cause of the problems.

If we are not careful, such negative coverage can create a big issue for Hong Kong in the future.

Instead of hanging our weakest link out to dry, society as a whole should extend a helping hand toward them and make them feel welcome.

Here are seven easy ways Hong Kong can help improve the lives of ethnic minorities and make our home a better place to live in.

1. Open cultural centers for the new migrants. The government should set up cultural centers, like open houses where new migrants can learn about Hong Kong, our culture and way of life.

They should be located in every district. The number of such centers should be adjusted depending on the population of new arrivals in the area, and they should be run by a mixed group of experts and volunteers.

The departments from the government handling new migrants should encourage them to visit these centers for at least the first six months they are in Hong Kong.

2. Make speaking Cantonese mandatory for new immigrants. It might attract flak from all sides, but communication is, as we all know, very important.

If you don’t speak the local language, what chance will you have to survive in such a fast-paced society like Hong Kong?  

New arrivals should be given at least six months to a year to pick up Cantonese.

The cultural centers suggested above could be used for such classes, and one must pass the speaking test before the final visa is granted.

This practice is nothing new. It is widely used in developed countries, and we should apply it here as well.

It will help improve the livelihood of newcomers in the long term, and society as a whole will eventually benefit from it.

3. Provide vocational training. The government should open enough vocational training centers for all.

The lessons provided in such centers should cover as many subjects as possible. The courses must be subsidized by the government, so that the people at the bottom of the ladder can benefit from them.

Many such centers do exist in Hong Kong. What is needed now is to communicate their existence to the general public.

To accommodate everyone in the society, the promotional brochures must be printed and distributed in various languages.

If such materials are only made available in Chinese, people from other ethnic backgrounds will not be aware of such facilities and won’t be able to benefit from them.

4. Create a free and dedicated television channel. To cater for the interest and well-being of ethnic minorities, the government should provide one dedicated TV channel for their needs, and if it is difficult to provide a free one, even a paid one should be set up.

We don’t have to have a channel for each ethnic group; it can be one channel that broadcasts various programs from different ethnic groups at different times.

It can make them happy, feel welcomed and accepted as part of the society.

5. Make it easier to join the government’s disciplined services. The government should encourage people from ethnic minorities to join disciplined services such as the police, customs, the fire department and correctional services.

It will boost their morale and make them feel wanted. It can contribute greatly to integrating them into mainstream society.

The benefit it can provide to society in the long term is simply too great to ignore.

Ethnic minorities will feel more accepted when they see their own people in uniform, and we will have a more peaceful and harmonious society in the end.

6. Invite ethnic representatives to take part in government. 

If you try hard, you will find many capable, willing and qualified individuals from different ethnic backgrounds who can not only help, suggest and guide but also lead their respective communities by example, and taking advice from such individuals can only benefit the decision-making body.

Who knows their daily issues better than the ethnic minorities themselves? Ask them, and you will readily find the right solutions.

7. Involve, not isolate them. I have been living in Hong Kong since 1980, and I can say I have seen two types of advertisements on Hong Kong TV during those years.

One type is locally made commercials, and the other is commercials made outside the city.

The ads from the outside have people of mixed colors in them. But the locally made ones have only Chinese people and hardly any people of other ethnicities.

I cannot say for sure if this is intentional or just a coincidence, but this is the reality.

We cannot say much about the ads sponsored by private companies, but the ads commissioned by the government itself hardly have people from other races and colors, and that says it all.

We all know Hong Kong is a city with a predominantly Chinese population, but people from other ethnicities also live here, and the government should represent them all, right?

Involve, not isolate them. Only then we can have a happy, peaceful and successful society.

Hong Kong is a rich place. The contribution of ethnic minorities to making it rich cannot be ignored, and it is about time Hong Kong shows it also has a heart.

It is time Hong Kong starts taking care of its neglected people as well, show them it cares and help create a nicer place for all to live with peace and dignity.

It certainly won’t be a hard job for Hong Kong if it wants to do it, and I sincerely hope it does.

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EJ Insight contributor

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