The Forgotten Voters: Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong

By Richelia Yeung, Angela Cheung and Winnie Ngai

The Legislative Council Election had come to the end in early September. Approximately, there were 2.2 million registered voters cast their votes, which is the highest turnout rate over the years.

Although more than half of the Ethnic minorities surveyed were willing to vote in the Legislative Council election, they could barely find a candidate to be represented.

There are more than 140, 000 ethnic minority adults in Hong Kong. Mr Kyle Si, the Ethnic Minority Services Team Leader of Hong Kong Christian Service Ethnic Minority Services (HKCS) said, seven out of nine of the candidates in the Legco and District Council elections lists of LegCo District Council did not include the concerns of ethnic minorities in their election platforms.

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) and the HKCS conducted a survey regarding on 400 registered ethnic minority voter before the Legislative Council election. They found that 55% of the interviewees would vote in the election, however over 70% of them said the majority of the candidates cannot voice out their needs and concerns.

Dr. Theresa Cunanan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University College of International Education (BUCIE) and a member of The Committee on the Promotion of Racial Harmony (CPRH), said language barrier is one of the reasons for the low political participation of the ethnic minority groups.

“Hong Kong is very predominately Chinese language driven,” she said. “Even when these candidates promote their messages and political missions, it is done in Chinese. It doesn’t seem to serve the purpose of a bilingual society.”

According to the survey over 90% of the non-Chinese interviewees were not able to read Chinese, so they simply could not understand candidates’ views.

Dr. Cunanan said that non-Chinese Asian communities are not properly represented as the candidates did not really consider the needs of the non-Chinese community. She thinks that Paul Zimmerman, a Dutch-born Hong Kong politician participating in the Legislative Council election, is a way of making a difference to his community as an ethnic minority.

Being one of the nominees on the Diversity List this year, Cunanan said that she and the other ethnically diverse candidates are trying to raise people’s awareness towards the ethnic groups in Hong Kong. “We can make a difference and contribute to the society.”

Dennis Isip, a Filipino born and raised in Hong Kong, a student at the City University of Hong Kong voted this year. “I view myself as a Hongkonger,” said Dennis. He said he and his non-Chinese friends have voted in the Legislative Council election as it is part of their civil right.

Isip also noticed that the campaign leaflets given by independent groups are mostly printed in Chinese.

Talking about the problems ethnic groups face in Hong Kong, Isip thinks that racism is the major issue. “I have a non-Chinese friend who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin and English just like any other Hongkongers, he has sent over 200 job applications but still couldn’t get a job because of his dark complexion.”

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service has suggested ways to increase the political participation of ethnic groups in Hong Kong. They proposed that the views of the non-Chinese speaking group on livelihood issues should be consulted and included in the election platform. Moreover, it is suggested that the Chinese Language Courses pegged with Qualification Framework for Ethnic Minorities should be accepted by the government and employers.

Dennis Isip, a Filipino born and raised in Hong Kong, states that racism is the major issue ethnic groups are now facing in Hong Kong.
Dr. Cunanan, senior lecturer at the College of International Education, HKBU, suggests that the political engagement of non-Chinese-speaking groups can be increased by adding English as a medium in the promotional campaigns.

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