(* The article was published on the South China Morning Post on 25 Jan, 2012)
Three years after the enactment of the Race Discrimination Ordinance in Hong Kong, has our Government changed its attitude towards racial equality?
The recent sentencing in Britain of two men for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 brought justice to a case of institutional racism in the country. The public-inquiry report on the murder uncovered the police’s failure to investigate the case because of racial bias within the force. In response, the authorities took steps to recruit more ethnic minorities into the police, set up a taskforce on race relations, and extend the law to require public authorities and bodies to promote equality.
Our own ordinance does not impose any such positive duty. However, the Government needs to take steps to treat all races equally, in comply with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The British Government has admitted the deep-rooted racism in its institutions; the leadership in Hong Kong, unfortunately, is essentially in denial that there might even be such a problem here. Memories are still fresh of the police shooting of Nepali street sleeper Dil Bahadur Limbu in 2009. While that was not a racially motivated killing like the Lawrence case, it has raised significant questions about the degree of sensitivity the police employ in handling ethnic minorities.
The immediate response from the Hong Kong Police on that occasion was in some ways encouraging, involving measures such as sensitivity training for frontline officers, the recruitment of ethnic minorities for community liaison and the strengthening of ties with ethnic minority communities. But the backdown on holding an independent inquiry into the incident reflected serious reservations among government bodies about being open about their anti-discrimination policies. It also showed their sensitivity about the possibly being accused of being at fault.
No work has been done on measuring ethnic sensitivity within the police force, despite the many voices of concern about ethnic minorities being subject to more frequent police stop-and-search incidents in the street.
A report last year by the Equal Opportunities Commission on Chinese-language education for ethnic minority students vividly highlighted the problems they faced. The commission called on the Education Bureau to act, including by strengthening Chinese=language support in primary schools, developing an alternative curriculum and assessment, and collecting better data for policy formulation.
While the report has won support from advocates and legislators, the Government has ignored it by reiterating its position that a single curriculum should be used for all learners. Officials simply refused to reconsider having an alternative syllabus.
Having one curriculum seems is too inflexible. Many ethnic minority students could not catch up with the Chinese-language curriculum and subsequently other Chinese-taught subjects. The lack of local-language environment, especially when Chinese is not spoken at home, limits these children’s chances of practising the language.
The inability to master the Chinese language has barred ethnic minority students from higher education. According to the latest statistics from 2006, around 3.2% of the total student population at pre-primary level were ethnic minorities. The percentage fell to about 1.1% for upper secondary and to a disturbingly low 0.59% at the post-secondary level.
Officials should acknowledge that our ethnic groups are not all the same. Ethnic minority children, especially from low-income families, need Chinese-language ability for higher education and employment. We need to ensure that all students are on a level playing field to pursue upward social mobility. An alternative Chinese-language syllabus, with specific assessment criteria, could give ethnic minority students education and employment opportunities more in line with their ethnic Chinese counterparts.
We echo the call by the Equal Opportunities Commission and other advocates for the development of a curriculum for Chinese as a second language, and a proficiency test system that allows ethnic minorities a step-by-step approach to language achievement.
Any legislation should also encompass and promote a change in attitude. The new government that takes over in less than six months should embrace equal opportunities principles.
It should introduce a comprehensive equal rights policy to check against human rights violations and ensure equal opportunities and anti-discrimination measures are upheld in all policies and legislation, so people of different races – and genders, age and sexual orientation – can enjoy equal access to education and employment and fully contribute to our society in security and with dignity.
「寫情寫理」捕捉社會點滴，讓關心香港的人 -- 無論從事社會服務或其他界別的