2020 saw an ardent rise in protests against systemic racism triggered by the death of George Floyd in the United States. While the states went through its own introspection of racial inequalities throughout a dark period in human history, the rest of the world also sat up, and took notice at the inherent racism that ethnic minorities face in various parts of the world.
Racism was never an issue local to America, the brutality and years of oppression remain as a common factor in most parts of the world including but not limited to India, China, Britain, South Africa, and Hong Kong.
As the modern-day quintessential for a financial hub, Hong Kong prides itself as one of the most global cities in the world, and is home to people from multiple ethnicities. It is no exception to ingrained racism and is yet to come into complete terms of acknowledging its racism crisis.
In January this year, Hong Kong saw a spike in covid-19 cases among families living in small quarters, at some of the lesser-known areas of Hong Kong’s streets. The area is densely populated by some ethnic minorities, and important officials spared no time, in generalizing the spike in cases to stereotypical comments on the ethnic minorities.
The head of the Health Promotion Branch of the Department of Health, Mr. Raymond Ho said, “They have many family gatherings and like to gather with fellow countrymen. They like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together. If it is without masks, the risk is high. They also need to share sanitary facilities with neighbors if the living environment is crowded.”
These comments were made at an official advisory panel, on Covid-19 vaccines.
In February, as covid- made a reappearance, and food deliveries and takeout became the way of life, for the umpteenth time- Foodpanda and Deliveroo, two of the most popular delivery apps, were one of the biggest pipelines of racism, as they received special statements like- “No Indian or Pakistani rider.”
The direct jibes on the South Asian communities remain as stunners over other ingrained insensitivity. The HK government distributed food to families in the Yau Tsim Mong district when it was placed under a sudden-strict lockdown and this food mostly consisted of luncheon meat and instant noodles- mostly consisting of pork. The communities in that area consist of a lot of practicing Muslims, who are do not eat pork. The issue was not investigated, and showed the intricacy with which racist insensitivity delved deep in the way the city functioned.
Jeffery Andrews, a social worker commented on the situation in a poignant Facebook post- “For too long, we have just been easy targets. It’s exhausting and traumatic to keep having to defend ourselves, justify each time there is an isolated incident involving an ethnic minority,”
Hong Kong unison, an NGO based on advocating for equal rights for ethnic minorities by uplifting and empowering people of communities said- “Family gatherings, eating together, drinking and smoking are not behaviors specific to (a) certain race or ethnicity. Such racialized narrative promotes negative stereotypes and isolates ethnic minorities further.”
A Long Journey
As of now, the city and its people are finally coming to terms with the grappling reality of the situation. People from the minority communities are speaking up, and fighting for their rights, and it is no doubt the first step in a long journey.
Hong Kong has had people from different ethnicities in every profession, and they cater hugely to the booming economy of the city. A narrative shaped alongside discrimination and prejudice amidst an already struggling time, can backfire catastrophically. Thus, it is important that as citizens, we acknowledge, correct, and try to reduce our own biases as much as possible. As human being, it is obvious we are not perfect, but we can try to be conscious of the people around us, and speak and behave in a respectful manner.
It is important that in a global pandemic, when everyone is struggling with a myriad of problems, we try and be as kind as possible to each other, and introspect how as a society we can be better. Thus, as Hong Kongers, we ought to be more sensitive to different communities and respect the differences that make each one of us unique in our own ways!