[lg policy] Hong Kong: Policies needed which give ethnic minorities level playing field

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Aug 22 10:50:31 EDT 2016

 Policies needed which give ethnic minorities level playing field
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 10:01pm

Comment: 1
[image: Contributor] <http://www.scmp.com/author/contributor>


Candidates have been campaigning vigorously for next month’s Legislative
Council election.

At election forums, few candidates mention ethnic minorities. Lawmakers
have a duty to promote policies for the betterment of all Hongkongers,
including ethnic minority residents. Perhaps few candidates are aware of
ethnic minority issues, one of which is the longstanding problem of the
language barrier and difficulty integrating into a predominantly
Cantonese-speaking society. Legco candidates should be aware of three
important facts.


Firstly, ethnic minority students are local students. The government often
uses “local students” to refer to Chinese students only. However, many
ethnic minority children were born and raised in Hong Kong. While this may
seem like a petty quarrel on semantics, the official discourse reveals much
of the thinking of those who formulate policies. By not referring to ethnic
minorities as local students, the government posits ethnic minorities as
foreign and their needs peripheral. This has led to policies that
overlooked ethnic minorities’ needs.

Secondly, English alone is not enough to survive in Hong Kong.

It’s a widely held belief that one doesn’t need the Chinese language to
succeed in Hong Kong if one has a good command of English. With it being an
international city and the fact that English and Chinese are official
languages means many people believe fluency in written and spoken Chinese
is optional as long as academic grades are good. However, many employers
assume all job applicants understand, speak, and even read and write

Unison research published in May found that if one does not have Chinese
language proficiency, one is limited to only 19 per cent of the 1,500
surveyed job ads. The level of Chinese taught to ethnic minorities must be
enhanced to increase their employability – which brings us to the third

A real “Chinese as a second language” policy is urgently needed. The
Education Bureau implemented the “Chinese as a Second Language Learning
Framework” in 2014, however, without learning targets and objectives,
guidelines on curriculum planning, and learning and teaching strategies.

The lack of a real second language education policy stalls social mobility
for successive generations of ethnic minorities – they cannot compete on an
equal footing with Chinese or participate meaningfully in society.

Ethnic minorities are Hongkongers too. On September 4, they too will
exercise their right and elect those who listen to them and speak for them.

*Phyllis Cheung, executive director, Hong Kong Unison*

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