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EM residents urge equality in health care, education and employment

16 October 2017

The SUN team

A group of ethnic minority residents, along with some local supporters, staged a protest on Oct. 8, to call for the elimination of “long-standing inequality” in Hong Kong’s education, employment and medical services.

The protesters, who included children, marched to the Central Government Offices in Tamar to urge Chief Executive Carrie Lam to help improve their plight.

They presented a petition which listed a 14-point demand, including fair admission in kindergartens, better Chinese language support for EM students in local schools, and desegregation in the public school system.

The rally was held ahead of the CE Lam’s maiden policy speech on Oct. 11.

Participants carry placards during their protest to call for the elimination of “long-standing inequality” in Hong Kong’s education, employment and medical services.
Government statistics from last year showed that 8,056 children from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and other parts of Asia – excluding China and Japan – were in primary schools.

The number dropped to 3,493 in high schools and 2,313 in tertiary institutions, accounting from just 30 percent of Hong Kong’s young people aged 15 to 24 from the listed countries.

In contrast, more than 73 percent of Chinese youth in this age group were in high schools and tertiary institutions.

Outside the government’s headquarters, the protesters shouted “We love Hong Kong, we are Hongkongers, we are Hong Kong’s future” in both English and Cantonese.

They said that because EM kids struggle to speak Chinese, they encounter difficulty in getting into good schools or obtaining better paying jobs, as many employers require job applicants to have attained a certain level of proficiency in Cantonese or Mandarin.

Some of the protesters said that even getting accepted into a kindergarten is difficult because young non-locals do not speak Chinese. The language problem continues as they try to get a place in prestigious elementary or secondary schools, or university.

Local supporters of the group said there is also a need to provide support for EMs who need medical care, or jobs.

Public hospitals should employ interpreters to prevent EMs being excluded from public health care because of the language barriers, while the Labour Department should have staff who will assist EMs in securing a job.

In response, the government through the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, said it will continue working with the Equal Opportunities Commission in building a “pluralistic and inclusive society which is free from discrimination”.

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