I was born in Hong Kong, and lived here 24/7, 365 days of the year until I went to university in Britain. I hold a permanent Hong Kong ID card and can live and work here indefinitely.
On paper, I am a Hongkonger, but to ethnic Chinese residents, I am not. I don’t speak Cantonese, I did not go to a local school, and didn’t choose to study in a university in Hong Kong. I’m also not involved with political groups here. But that does not mean I do not care.
I voted in this month’s Legislative Council elections for a person who I felt would really strive to ensure Hong Kong’s progress and keep democracy firmly in the local political dialogue.
However, none of the candidates represents me or other ethnic minorities in particular. In fact, there was only one candidate who aimed to represent expatriates, immigrants and ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. That person was Paul Zimmerman, who appeared on the Hong Kong Island candidates’ list.
Zimmerman, Pok Fu Lam’s district councillor and the only ethnically non-Chinese Legco candidate, said those who interviewed Legco candidates for the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme poll only spoke Cantonese, thereby excluding English speakers.
The lines between locals and expatriates are very deep and clear cut. Both sides must make an effort to shed their language and cultural differences for Hong Kong’s sake.
More needs to be done to educate expatriate children who attend non-local schools about Hong Kong’s culture, language and politics.
An outreach programme needs to target refugees and ethnic minorities who feel that they cannot influence society because of a lack of knowledge and language skills.
Finally, language rules and other barriers that prevent representation of ethnic minorities should be removed. Around 90 per cent of Hongkongers are ethnic Chinese, but our minorities are celebrated worldwide. This is a recognition of our status as an “international city”.
Both expatriates and the government have many issues to address when it comes to unity and political representation in Hong Kong.
However, this is one of the main requirements of political progress championed by student leaders and pan-democrats. If we start at an individual level, i.e. learning Cantonese and actively reading the news, we can influence others around us to do the same.
Change is a long way away, but it starts with a single step.