To Carrie Lam: If it was my maiden Policy Address, I would………

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Dr Rizwan Ullah offers suggestions to the Chief Executive to make every ethnic-monrity policy count.

Photo: Dr Ullah with his students (credit: Zubin Foundation)

Carrie Lam, our Chief Executive, will be delivering her maiden policy address when our honourable legislators are refreshed with their much needed recess and be back to action in October. Certainly, different political entities and stakeholders have been busily engaged in airing their views on the policy address to the CE team and hopefully this maiden policy address reflects the much sought ownership from the seven million plus Hongkongers. I am just worried that, paragraph(s) on Ethnic-minorities (EMs) in this noble document could be somewhat too restricted or generalised. This article intends to spell out how the two areas, namely, the 2Es (Education and Employment) could be addressed in the said paragraph(s).

Verbatims such as “only a small number of local ethnic minority student enter university” or “EMs do not like to integrate and they have their own way of thinking” have become an eye-grabber and headlines for the ideas-starved newspapers in Hong Kong to highlight the plights of EMs. Narratives of such only reiterate a “layman” phenomenon and divert tax payers’ money to various establishments in Hong Kong to deliver below-par and impotent intervention programmes to address the problem. To our disappointment, the effectiveness of every dollar spent in these programmes never offered antidotes to the problem, and becomes battle ground and political chip for different NGOs and political establishments to vie for their own vested interest. We become the victims and token representatives of this shortsighted Band-Aid remedies and windfalls. At this point, readers would agree with me that the government and its agencies have done a lot but it does not hit the bull’s eye in solving the problem.

Hence, the good intention of addressing the EM’s 2Es become a curse. What we observed is the lack of an innovative rigour to address the crux of the problem. The government rolls out big amount of resources but the deliverables are in fact questionable. They are set at a very superficial level, piecemeal in nature and lack sustainability. For example, the homogenised strategies adopted to address the 2Es failed to account for the differences in the needs, cultures and its pragmatism among the different EM groups when devising those programmes. Anyone who is google proficient, can take the initiative to put all those programmes under scrutiny and you would be able to cross examine various department heads. Personally benefiting from Hong Kong’s education system and considering myself a Hong Kong Chaai「香港仔」, the antidote to cure the problem is to revamp the current equation in solving the problem. If the EMs are treated as part of the Hong Kong’s equation in all policies, then coherence can be achieved and every dollar will be well-spent.

If I were given the opportunity to become the Chief Executive for only one day, I would:

  • set-up an EM steering committee that includes senior government officials at policy and working level from different government departments/bureaus and qualified EM individuals (representing different groups) chaired by the Chief Secretary to review the existing government provisions and devise sound, holistic and coherent short-term, mid-term and long-term plans that effectively address the policy priorities in the area of integration, education and employment.
  • commission research with various chambers of commerce and identify the skills-set employers are looking for and reflect the changes or reform in the respective settings. Hence, this will at least reconcile or narrow the mismatch. EMs in the schooling system can be geared towards it and while those in the employment field can make good use of the Placement-tied Courses and Skills Upgrading Schemes Plus to be the aspiring employee of their employer.
  • review and replenish the 56 training courses in ERB’s register for EMs, in particular the “Generic Skills Training Courses”. The adoption of a differentiated approach is needed to address different needs of EMs and poor enrolment for the courses. As there are “neglected ones” who were born in the 70’s and 80’s who never had the opportunity to become Chinese literate but are well-versed with spoken Cantonese. Chinese literacy for this neglected group will be in huge demand. In addition, Putonghua courses can be a big hit when EMs can be a big contributor to the Road and Belt initiative.
  • set-up a database by means of a tracking system which records and update the trajectory of EM secondary school leavers. This big data will better inform policy makers and relevant service providers to allocate and deliver education and employment-related resources much more efficiently and effectively in short-term, mid-term and long-term.
  • initiate 18 district cultural activities that aim to increase the “mutual” acceptance, respect and appreciation among different stakeholders.  All these activities should have clear deliverables and should distant itself with substance-less celebration and food tasting.
Carrie Lam with Dr Ullah at the Diversity List award ceremony. (credit: Zubin Foundation)

After outlining my one-day manifesto, I guess this seat is too hot for me and I should rest them with Carrie Lam because I recall her verbatim, “I will be delivering my first policy address outlying my policy blueprint for the purpose of Hong Kong,” and considering ourselves as the people of Hong Kong, I trust that we would not be disappointed.

We are indeed very much looking forward to this maiden policy address.

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Dr Rizwan Ullah

Dr Rizwan Ullah is the Head of Publicity, Information and Technology Division at Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo). He was born and raised in Hong Kong and is an EOC board member and sits on various government advisory boards. He also runs a Youtube channel “Top Tips with Dr. Riz” to offer students with various educational advice. Rizwan is part of the Diversity List endorsed by the Zubin Foundation.