In the "Declaration on Core Values", scholars listed 8 core values of Hong Kong that was being widely discussed. Among them, diversity and tolerancehave been the focus of the public, being similar but not the same. There are public opinions claiming that, as an international financial hub, Hong Kong is worthy of the name of diversity. Nevertheless, with the problems of Hong Kong-Mainland China conflict and racial discrimination, xenophobia are steadily growing. Tolerance has become the sparkling point of conflicts. Diversity and tolerance should be the idea of keeping harmony but seeks no oneness. Today, we will be focusing on the area of minorities in Hong Kong and relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China, analysing how the core values "diversity and tolerance" have changed in its forms and expressions after the handover.
Hong Kong minorities refer to non-Chinese people living in Hong Kong. According to the HKSAR government’s population statistics in 2011, about 451,000 people in Hong Kong are reported as non-Chinese, accounting for 6% of the total population. When the society mention"ethnic minorities", South Asia, Southeast Asia or Africa will first come to our mind. However, Japanese and white people are actually also minorities in Hong Kong. Nepalese, Pakistanis and Indians, who are commonly known as "ethnic minorities" instead, are usually being seen as the lower class in the society. In fact, the term "ethnic minorities" draws a lot of social problems and misunderstanding behind it.
The biggest problem faced by ethnic minorities is inadequate Chinese education. Minorities are usually assigned to English-based "designated schools" when they enroll in primary and secondary schools. Many are unable to cope with the Hong Kong’s traditional examination because of Chinese, and thereby miss the opportunity to enter university. Chinese is not only an important requirement for college entry, but it is also essential in many jobs. Not proficient in Chinese not only impedes many ethnic minorities’ career development, but also causes intergenerational poverty.
Although Hong Kong is an international city, but still, majority of the citizens are Chinese. Due to language barrier and lack of cultural understanding, prejudice or even discrimination can easily arise. With many ethnic minorities employed in low-paying jobs, some locals unconsciously associate “ethnic minorities” with “low pay jobs”, indirectly increasing the barriers of their job search. This creates a sense of frustration among the minority groups, making them difficult to resonate with the “Lion Rock Spirit” in Hong Kong.
【China-Hong Kong Relations】
China-Hong Kong relations has become one issue of diversity in recent years. Since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong-Mainland China relations have faced increasing tension.
China and Hong Kong are very close to each other geographically, but there are many differences in lifestyles, behaviors and language between the two places. With the implementation of the individual visit scheme and the Belt and Road Initiative, the interaction between Hong Kong and Mainland people increases. At the same time, however, the conflicts between Hong Kong and China also rises. For example, mainlanders are sometimes derogatorily called “locusts,” a reference to the idea that they come to Hong Kong, consume its resources, and leave a mess behind when they leave.
In addition to cultural differences, political differences is also an important factor for the contradiction between China and Hong Kong. The 5 interpretations of the Basic Law in the last two decades have weakened Hong Kong citizens’ confidence in “one country, two countries”, and there is growing concern about the nature of “Hong Kong people running Hong Kong” and the Basic Law. A number of surveys have also shown increasing number of Hong Kong citizens feel distant with the National identity. The Hong Kong-China conflict is something that needs to be addressed if Hong Kong hopes to continue embracing diversity.
(Please read more about the interpretations of Basic Law in our publication on 2/7)
2001 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Founded in 2001, Hong Kong Unison is a non-profit charitable organization that works on upholding rights of ethnic minorities residents in Hong Kong. They aspire to eliminate racial prejudices and stereotypes, and promote the positive multifaceted cultures embraced in the minorities. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination originated from an incident on 21 March 1960, where police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. This day commemorates the lives that have been lost to the fight for democracy and equal human rights, and calls for efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination in the society.
2008 Racial Discrimination Ordinance Enacted
The Race Discrimination Ordinance was enacted in July 2008 and came into full operation in July 2009. The Ordinance, which makes discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of race unlawful, serves to ensure that people of different races are treated equally in Hong Kong.
2012 Dolce & Gabbana Controversy
On 5 January 2012, Hong Kong citizens had been prevented from taking pictures of Dolce & Gabbana window displays, yet other tourists from Mainland China were allowed to do so, hence stirring anti-Mainlander sentiment. The actions sparked protests spanning several days, with protesters gathering and taking photos outside the shop. The incident was appeased with apology statement published by the headquarters of Dolce & Gabbana from Italy.
2014 Erwiana Domestic Worker Abuse Case
Erwiana, aged 23, was physically abused at the hands of her employer for a period of 8 months. She claimed that she had to work for 21 hours per day and was not permitted a day off. She alleged that she was beaten by her employer with various household items, including clothes hangers and wooden sticks. Her health was left in a weakened state. She had asked for help from the agency but was being ignored. She refrained from reporting the case to the police due to her unfamiliarity to Hong Kong. Her employer arranged for her to return to Indonesia as she has lost her working ability. Yet, the incident was discovered by her fellow Indonesian citizen at the airport, and escorted Erwiana to the police to ask for help. The incident provoked protests with around 2000 people calling for justice for Erwiana. This New York Time magazine labelled the Indonesian domestic helpers as Hong Kong’s “Modern-Day Slaves”.
2015 Anti-parallel trading “liberate” activities
Anti-parallel trading protests occurred in Tuen Mun and Shatin. Parallel traders from Mainland China used multiple entry visa policy to import goods back to China and sell them, creating inflation and shortages in Hong Kong. The residents hence responded with “Liberate Tuen Mun” and “Recover Shatin” campaign to express their dissatisfaction. The protests quickly heightened from anti-parallel trading to anti-IVS (Individual Visit Scheme), which the residents regarded as the root of the problem. Conflicts arose between the residents and tourists from Mainland China and descended into chaotic scenes. The police used pepper spray to control the situation and arrested those involved in assaults. The incident was widely reported by the press, especially through Weibo and forums in Mainland China, worsening Hong Kong’s image among the Mainlanders.
Diversity has always been a cornerstone of Hong Kong society, celebrating our status as a melting pot of cultures, the fusion of east-west ideas, and the creation of opportunities due to the collision of different perspectives. However, with the rise of China-Hong Kong conflict, diversity in Hong Kong’s population has evoked concerns of the dilution of domestic culture, and voices for segregation of minorities have grown louder and louder. Ethnic minorities have found themselves shunned by those considered as the ‘majority’, incidents surrounding the abuse of foreign domestic helpers, and the continous lack of support for non-Chinese speaking ethnic minorities are an indictment of this unfortunate trend. One must not forget that diversity creates societies in which different ways of life collide and innovate -- culture is not static, but rather an evolving collage of different aspects of life that stem from traditions but are moulded by acceptance. Acceptance, however, is not simply given, but earned. It cannot be earned by the feeling of being threatened by diversity -- that the rule of law, democracy, freedom and order has weakened due to the poor planning and response of the government towards the changing dynamics of Hong Kong society. The path to cultural understanding and acceptance may be slow and rife with tension, conflict and misunderstanding, but when it is done right, it is definitely worth it.
As a core value of Hong Kong society, the Government has enacted policies in the effort of promoting tolerance and diversity. In 2017, the Government will give subsidies to kindagartens with 8 or more non-Chinese speaking students in an effort to build a foundation for Chinese language learning. Moreover, the Government hopes to alleviate China-Hong Kong tensions through ‘one path one road’ and infrastructure such as Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau Bridge to foster economic exchange between the two regions. Whether these policies actually succeed in alleviating strong divides remains to be seen.04