Possible Counter-accusation of Discrimination Against Hongkongers
Chapman Chen, Ph.D.
David and Goliath
Society for Community Organization (SoCo) of Hong Kong has claimed that the situation of discrimination against new immigrants from China in Hong Kong is so serious that they have to send delegates to United Nations in Geneva. However, although for the time being, the actual number of new immigrants from China in Hong Kong is still smaller than that of Hong Kong citizens, these new immigrants and tourists from Mainland China are backed up by the People’s Republic of China, sovereignty holder and de facto ruler of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong SAR）. Hong Kong has no power to decide the quota and name list of immigrants from China. Furthermore, the legislature of Hong Kong is only a semi-democratic one and the Chief Executive is not elected by way of universal suffrage. These new immigrants are judicially protected by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, and they receive special assistances from local social welfare organizations. The situation of Mainland Chinese in Hong Kong may be compared to that of Russians in Ukraine or Americans in Iraq. .
Discrimination Against Hongkongers’ Mother Tongue
According to Article 29 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. “Everyone is entitled to receive an education in the language specific to the territory where s/he resides.” And according to Article 4 of The UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, “States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue.”
“Language Learning Support”, a webite of the Hong Kong Education Bureau, admits that “Nearly 97 percent of the local population use Cantonese as their daily life language.” On the other hand, in 2007, the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) of Hong Kong thought that teaching the Chinese subject in Putonghua (Mandarin) is a general tendency, and allocated around 20 million Euro for the testing plan of Putonghua as a medium of instruction (PMI) in primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong. In January this year, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong allocated around 22.5 million Euro for the encouragement and support of promoting teaching the Chinese subject in Putonghua, with PMI as “the long-term target”. As a result, now as many as 70 percent of the primary schools in Hong Kong and 40 percent of the secondary schools there are teaching the Chinese subject in Putonghua. The “long-term target” of promoting Putonghua as the medium of instruction of the Chinese subject and even other subjects means a serious attempt to deprive Hongkongers of their right to be educated in their mother tongue.
A recent recruitment advertisement of Po Leung Kuk Ngan Po Ling College (Hong Kong) requires any applicant for the post of the Chinese subject teacher in that school to be a native speaker of Putonghua. And preference will be given to those with teaching experience on the Chinese Mainland. This has triggered off a lot of protests against discrimination from the Hong Kong public. In response to the protests, Secretary for Education (Hong Kong), Eddie Ng Hak-kim, stressed that Hongkongers with Putonghua as their mother tongue should not be excluded from the teaching profession, provided that they meet the requirements of the profession.
So much the more, in an education program put forth by the Education Bureau in 2004 http://etv.edb.gov.hk/resource_wmv-c.aspx?c=1&id=18221, there is a demon character, who says he hates Putonghua and he wants to conquer the whole country with Cantonese. This devilish figure tries to attack with Cantonese phrases a heroine representing Putonghua, but is fought back by the latter with corresponding Putonghua phrases. Subsequently, a fierce robber disguises himself as a Putonghua speaker from Beijing and tries to harm a little girl diligently learning Putonghua. The mother tongue of the robber is actually Cantonese and the parents of the little girl are Putonghua speaking new immigrants from China. This program explicitly demonizes Hong Kong Cantonese and severely discriminates against Cantonese-speaking Hongkongers.
The examples above show that Hong Kong Education Bureau neglects and ignores the data of Putonghua subduing Cantonese in Hong Kong schools. More than that, the Bureau has vilified the mother tongue of most Hongkongers (Cantonese) and has been biased towards Putonghua. In other words, the PMI language policy of the Hong Kong Government arguably contravenes The UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities at the expense of Hongkongers as an ethnic group.
Compared with China, which has a population of almost 1.4 billion, Hong Kong has a population of only 7 million. Hongkongers’ language (Cantonese instead of Putonghua), writing system (traditional Chinese characters rather than simplified characters), political and economic systems, and living habits and customs are all different from China. So Hongkongers may be considered an ethnic and linguistic minority.
The Hong Kong Government’s Double Standard of Law Enforcement
Article 5 of The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) creates a specific obligation to guarantee the right of everyone to equality before the law regardless of “race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.”
On 24 April 2014, Gregory So Kam-leung, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of Hong Kong, openly said that the best way to deal with children of Mainland Chinese tourists urinating in public in Hong Kong was tolerance. However, according to Section 4 of Summary Offences Ordinance, Hong Kong, includes urinating in public or unsheltered places or any other inappropriate places. And according to the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) Ordinance, it is an offence to urinate and/or defecate in public places. First offenders are liable to a penalty of HKD5000 and repeated offenders are liable to a penalty of HKD10,000. Moreover, any person in taking care of children under the age of twelve, is forbidden to allow them to urinate or defecate in public places without reasonable excuses. Hong Kong has rarely seen prosecution of such charges for a long time. The most recent case is the prosecution (dated 23 April 2014) of a South Asian named Sandhu Guljar-Singh for obeying the call of nature in a public place.
The Fixed Penalty Ordinance of Hong Kong stipulates that Depositing of litter or waste in public places, Spitting in public places, Fouling of street by dog faeces, and Display of bills or posters without permission are all offences liable to a fixed penalty of 1500 HK dollars. In 2013, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong issued altogether 34,900 fixed penalty notices and the sum of penalty amounted to HKD52350,000 (around 5235,000 Euro).
How come the Hong Kong Government asks for tolerance of Mainland Chinese urinating and defecating in public in Hong Kong but fails to tolerate South Asians doing the same in Hong Kong and also fails to tolerate Hongkong citizens littering and spitting in public places, etc.?
In conclusion, in vigorously encouraging the teaching of the Chinese subject in Putonghua in lieu of Cantonese, the Hong Kong Government allegedly violates UNESCO’s Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. And the Hong Kong authorities’ selective enforcement of law allegedly contravenes The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Now that SoCo is appealing to the United Nations in Geneva for assistance to new immigrants from China, Hong Kong citizens may put forth a counter-accusation, and with much more urgent and valid reasons!
Source of photo http://mypaper.pchome.com.tw/msyichuan — with Oceanie Chan.
Photo: Local Focus/Local Press