Ethnic integration policies and the Han costume


Rose Luqiu Luwei is an executive editor at Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV, and the founder of the liberal leaning blog-host similar to Bullog

She recently wrote a blog about Hong Kong’s new policy to prevent racism within its multi-ethnic community of Southeast Asians and Indians.

Leung Man-tao (梁文道), blogger, book writer and well-known host of Phoenix TV, wrote for Southern Weekend in April 2008 on the issue of race in China. Both are translated below:

Racism in Hong Kong

by Rose Luqiu Luwei / my1510

At the fastest, Hong Kong’s “Racism policy” will be in effect his month, but I don’t know too much about the contents of this policy. I do know that calling someone “Ah Cha” (Indians), “Bing Mei” (Filipino maids) and “Hei Gui” will be offensive, and these could become official complaints. Also, employers cannot use race as a reason to refuse employment to ethnic minorities.

From the view of political correctness, protecting ethnic minorities and the rights of the weak groups in society by setting laws shows the progress of “civilized” society, but the erecting of laws is a serious thing, especially when the starting point for erecting that law is good. But if they aren’t careful with the guidelines, then it could be dangerous and complicate the issue. The law to resist racism in Hong Kong has been in the pipes for nine years, and although last year it was passed, it is still debated now.

According to the Special Zone government’s figures from June 2006, there are 342,198 ethnic minorities living in Hong Kong, which is 5% of Hong Kong’s total population. 32.9% of whom are Filipino, 25.7% Indonesian, 10.6 white, 6% Indian, 5.3% mixed race, 4.7% Nepalese, 3.9% Japanese, 3.5% Thai, 3.2% Pakistani, 2.3% other Asians, 1.4% Korea, 0.6% other.

In Hong Kong the ethnic minorities are long-term residents, only 6,028 (1.8%) are migratory. The number of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong in 2001 was 343,950, which is a similar figure as 2006.

As for their education level, at age 3 to 5, 83.9% went to school, between the age of 17 and 18 the percentage is 74.3% and between 19 and 24 it’s 6.7%. But the figures for the entire Hong Kong population is, respectively, 89.1%, 82.8% and 37.3%.

You can see that the ethnic minorities who go to university are six times more than the rest of Hong Kong.

Two thirds of ethnic minorities feel that they are judged in Hong Kong. For example, going to a shop or to the hospital, people are impolite to them, and it is because of this that there is now a law: so that there are no acts of racism when government or private organizations are recruiting, where education and classes are concerned, the selling of goods. Training, private and public medical service must have translators present, otherwise they can be charged with racism.

However, the racism has to be very obvious, for example saying that you won’t do business with a certain group or not giving someone the job because they’re not Chinese. If you walked into an elevator and the other person stepped backwards - this might be because they’re not used to being close to anyone, no matter who stepped into the lift. Same with finding work, the employer might say that it is because of your qualifications, so it would be hard to know if it were because of your race. In the same way, many employers are worried that they will be accused of racism, so they won’t employee ethnic minorities, period.

Treating racism is something that every country has to face. Except in Hong Kong the starting point of the policy is not to promote race equality, but to stop mutual harm. Some people have suggested that they learn from Singapore and their Ethnic Integration Policy. Singapore uses administrative procedures to regulate: Malaysians, Chinese and Indians cannot live separately creating “Chinatown-like” places. There are rules stating a quota for race percentages in each building, if a certain group’s presence is above what is stated by the law, then they can’t rent it out to people of this race anymore. Under these measures, different races can share facilities together, and after some time this can’t avoid interaction and communication.

But, no matter what the measures, different people will have different reactions and responses. For example, when in France they announced that Muslim girls must not wear head-scarfs in public schools because it would get rid of the idea of the majority and minority ethnic groups, and get the students to all feel equal, groups of Muslims refused to because they thought that this was a sign of racism.

In the past the ethnic minorities of Hong Kong worked and lived silently, but recently they have been taking to the streets. The Nepalese protested that another was shot to death, 5,000 Filipinos protested that Chip Tsao claimed Phillipines was a slave nation. But, their voices have always been secondary news to Hong Kong media, and a commentary was made that this reflected the value system of ordinary Hong Kong citizens and their predisposed discrimination of ethnic minorities and Filipino maids, and don’t think that their dissatisfaction and anger is important news.

Indeed, ignoring this is another sign of discrimination, but this expression cannot be punished by law. But the law is creating principled laws, for example demanding that the children of ethnic minorities are admitted into mainstream schools, but after they are admitted, how can they become one with the masses cannot be solved by law. Apart from society, ethnic minorities themselves have to try hard. If they think that they deserve everything, they will also isolate themselves.

In the process of establishing laws, many people think that the new immigrants from China mainland should also be counted. But the government thinks that new immigrants won’t necessarily think of themselves as ethnic minorities. Especially since there isn’t a specialized culture, so they haven’t been included. Talking about new immigrants, I believe there is more regional discrimination: this also exists within the mainland, and it’s also quite serious. As for the ethnic minorities there has been many beneficial policies towards them. But benefits means inequality. In fact, if real equality can be achieved, that would be enough.

Don’t forget that China is also a multi-ethnic country

by Leung Man-tao

We tend to forget that China is also a multi-ethnic country, and imagine that the fifty-five ethnic minorities are only made-up of clothes, song and dance and food.

If the American president openly declared to the public that he cannot understand why Amish people wanted to continue their original, backwards way of living, what do you think would happen next? If a Bengali intellectual fluently talked about the conservative stupidity of Islam, what do you think would happen next? If a Finn netizen in a forum openly called for the Inuit to abandon their hunting lifestyles, and accept a more “civilized” way of living, what do you think will happen next? The interesting thing is, although this is all slightly unbelievable, it has actually manifested under different guises and forms in China, and it seems as if nothing happened next.

It has been forty years since Dr. Martin Luther King passed away; the civil rights movement of the US happened almost fifty years ago. In that people-shaking tide, one slogan became unforgettable for me: “White is a color, too.” This sentence was aimed at white people, and their blind vision of the races of the world. The world is split into two: in the mainstream there are white people, and all the other colored races can be simply gathered into the “colored people” category, as if white wasn’t a color. As if white people are a neutral race that does not fall under any color palette. This sentence called to attention that white people are also a race with special traits, white people are in the end a race too; compared to the dialect of the African-American, the style of speech of the whites do not make the standard, it’s only the method of another race.

During the “Two Sessions” there were always ethnic minorities wearing “ethnic costumes,” the question is, why don’t the large majority of Han wear a “Han costume?” Apart from dress and song and dance, what do ethnic minorities mean to the majority of Han Chinese people?

In a short time, many people predicted that in the 21st century, nationalism and politics dominated by race will automatically disappear. But if we look at the whole globe, not only isn’t there a slight easing of politics dominated by race, but it has become even stronger. How should the problems between race be treated? Revisiting the civil rights movement in the US, one of its biggest contribution is gradually turning the US from a “big furnace” into a multi-colored “mosaic”; from stressing that every race integrate into the mainstream white society, and turning into emphasis of the equal co-existence of different races. With this change as the backdrop, the great clamor for “multi-culturalism” of the last thirty years was formed.

Perhaps Canada is the place that has the most complete “multi-culturalism,” having declared French as the official language for Quebec, which is also taught in middle schools. Even though the theory of multiculturalism compared to its practice are different and they encountered difficulty, but those who agree with Quebec’s independence are becoming fewer by the day, and they really provide some inspiration for us. The inspiration is for the mainstream race to recognize that we too are a race. And not think that only minority races have unique social practices; compared to them, the social practice of the mainstream ethnic groups are also special, and not a “colorless” objective standard.

How many Han people know what year it is in the Tibetan calendar and the Muslim calender? When an ethnic minority middle school student use “Mandarin” and recite the dynasty names of Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing, how many Han Chinese know where to put the Tufan dynasty in this “official” list?

The so-called race policy is not only about working with ethnic minorities, giving them more benefits and rights, but should also take the Han race, which makes up the majority, as a race too, and ask each race to mutually respect one another. As a Han Chinese, multi-culturalism taught me to be more modest and examine myself, and to keep an open-mind to learn, and see the cultures of other races as the invaluable heritage of my own. The People’s Republic of China does not belong to the Han, and the basis for our unity is civilianhood, more than race or blood.

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