Tribute to Hong Kong’s Dynamic Ethnic Diversity

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Jeffrey Andrews makes a good case for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong on how they helped make Hong Kong what it is today.

(Photo: Jeffrey was endorsed a candidate of the Diversity List 2017, alongside Shalini Mahtani, Co-Founder and Chair of The Zubin Foundation, and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung. Credit: The Zubin Foundation)

Twenty years ago, as I vividly remember watching on TV on a rainy 1 July evening with my family, the British flag being lowered and the Chinese flag taking its place, I just didn’t realise what an impact it would have on my life. Even prior to that historic occasion in 1997, like many ethnic minority friends we already struggled with our identities as a minority, our education prospects, and our futures. Today in 2017 some questions remain unanswered, twenty years on it is not only us ethnic minorities seeking these answers but many local Chinese counterparts asking these very same questions.

How times have changed from the early handover days where most local Chinese Hongkonger’s were so patriotic towards the motherland and with or without intention causing many ethnic minorities like myself to be second class citizens. From a drastic pro Cantonese recruitment policy for police posts, to changes in many job requirements to also now include Mandarin, to continue to place minority children in  de facto segregated schools, a lack of higher education opportunities and many other instances that continue to isolate and push ethnic minorities to poverty, unemployment, marginalisation and lack of acceptance by the society.

This vicious cycle couldn’t go on forever, thanks to continuous efforts from certain dedicated, passionate and outstanding social workers, legislators, human rights lawyers, civil societies, a couple of NGOs and members of the ethnic minority community that advocated, lobbied, raised awareness and represented us to gradually change many policies that were hindering our progress, that were discriminatory, biased and at times unlawful. Slowly but surely things progressively changed for the better.

Today we have the first batches of post-97 ethnic minority policemen, social workers, celebrities, actors, singers, news presenters, journalists, firemen, teachers, locally educated university masters and PHD students. Some are even included in government advisory boards. The achievements and successes continue.

In fact, things have changed so much, that I often joke about the irony that we ethnic minorities are no longer No.1 on the discrimination list and that the mainlanders have taken over our spot. I say that because I hope our local Chinese Hongkongers can wake up and realise how fickle society can be to target people out of unnecessary fear, lack of cultural sensitivity, stereotyping and biased attitudes. I know now more than ever my identity and that of many EM friends have become stronger and we are more confident to claim ourselves as Hongkonger’s and that this is our home too.

Many local Hongkongers, especially after the Umbrella Movement, suddenly realised that many of us are of the 80’s generation, the time of Hong Kong’s boom when many of us witnessed the great economic developments and progress this city had made. While America had the “American Dream” we in Hong Kong had a ”Never say Never’ attitude – Yes I’m talking about the good old days when Filipino musicians entertained both locals and expats at almost every hotels; the days when the suits you wore and the curry you ate were almost guaranteed to be from an Indian or South Asian local; when banks were guarded by Pakistani or Punjabi locals; when the British colonial government had protection from Nepalese Gurkhas; when buildings and roads were built by hardworking labour force of South Asians; when South Asian businessmen diamonds exclusively traded goods from diamonds and semi-precious stones to Kashmir carpets.

We have always had a place in history in Hong Kong, regardless if there aren’t any monuments or articles in textbooks about the great contributions we have made. But I do hope one day that the Hong Kong government pays tribute to our community by not just lip service, but by a genuine gesture of appreciation to our dynamic, diverse and significant community. And at the end of the day we are part of that story that makes Hong Kong what it is and I’m going to end with the new popular slogan, “WE ARE HONG KONG!”


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Mr Jeffrey Andrews

Jeffrey is the first ethnic minority registered social worker. He is also a Diversity List 2017 candidate endorsed by the Zubin Foundation.