The recent chief executive election showed that Hong Kong leaders are more conscious, than ever before, of the need to engage with ethnic minorities. This is a significant milestone for all of us non-Chinese that call Hong Kong home and is noteworthy.
All three chief executive candidates, Carrie Lam, Woo Kwok Hing and John Tsang, engaged directly with ethnic minorities, despite the fact that only 12 of the 1,194 nomination committee are non-Chinese. Why did they do this?
I would like to believe that it is because there is an understanding that non-Chinese people in Hong Kong are equally Hong Kong people and therefore should have the same platform to share views as their Chinese counterparts. I would like to believe also that it is because there is an acknowledgement that many of us Hong Kong’s minorities have contributed, through generations and sheer hard work and many sacrifices, to making Hong Kong the economic success that it is. Most importantly, I would hope that there is an understanding that there are so many Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese and other ethnic minorities , who fought for and defended Hong Kong during times of unrest and war.
Although none of the above reasons may be the real drivers, and in fact we may never know the reasons for the higher level of engagement, it was a pragmatic move by chief executive candidates to engage with Hong Kong’s minorities for many reasons.
Firstly, the South Asian population of Hong Kong is growing much faster that of the Hong Kong Chinese population. The average family size of Pakistani households, for instance, is 4.2 compared to 2.8 of the overall Hong Kong households. This is a significant future talent pool and an economic necessity if Hong Kong is going to fuel its economy and finance its ageing population.
Secondly, One Belt One Road is a strategic initiative of the PRC and covers over 60 countries. Hong Kong is the launch pad of One Belt One Road and has tremendous economic opportunities. Success will depend in (big) part to Hong Kong’s ability to understand the languages and deep cultures of many of these countries along the Silk Road in order to transact and do business. Lucky for Hong Kong that we have access to many of these languages and cultures through our very own ethnic minority population.
Thirdly, there is growing insecurity that Hong Kong is losing its edge over other cities in Mainland China, with Shenzhen apparently being the current threat. Hong Kong must distinguish itself as “different to any other Chinese city” and one way to do this is to stress our “global” talent pool. After all, it is difficult to be Asia’s world city without other Asian racial minorities and access to good use of the English language.
Lastly, and perhaps most of all, youth were a key focus for all three of the chief executive candidates with the growing tensions between the youth and our leaders in government. With the fastest growing youth population, it made sense to engage with the ethnic minority youth and their families in Hong Kong.
Whatever the reasons of all three candidates, I can safely say that many ethnic minorities felt good to be engaged with, even if they did not get everything they asked for (who does?).
You see, unlike many of their parents and grandparents who were “scared to rock the boat”, many ethnic minorities today don’t feel that way, because they too are Hong Kong people.
Shalini Mahtani is Founder of The Zubin Foundation. Her family has lived in Hong Kong since 1911. Visit www.zubinfoundation.org.
She welcomes your thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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