November 30, 2006

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Discriminating tastes

One of the benefits of Hong Kong's political system is its slowness. The genius of the system is it allows the city to watch other countries' experiments and laws, seeing what works and taking the best parts to make the Big Lychee even better.

The explains why its taken only 10 years for the government to come up with a unique racial discrimination law. The government has never been in a rush on this issue because Hong Kong is reasonably homogenous - less than 10% of the population is of non-Chinese ethnicity. Of the minorities, there are two main groups: the expats who are in no need of protection, and the army of domestic helpers who the vast majority of the population don't give a fig about. The law is holy (in the Swiss cheese sense of the word), as the SCMP reports:

The Race Discrimination Bill, drawn up after more than a decade of debate, makes discrimination, harassment and vilification on the grounds of race unlawful in six areas. They include employment; education; provision of goods, facilities, services and premises; election and appointment to public bodies; pupillages and tenancy by, and instruction to, barristers; and membership of and access to clubs.

But it includes a wide range of exemptions covering such areas as the language of instruction in schools, preferential treatment for overseas staff for reasons other than race, and differential treatment on the basis of indigenous villager status, nationality and resident status.

It's a Claytons law: the one you have when you actually fancy a bit of discrimination, even if it's not polite to say so.

The most intriguing part is that relating to barristers: has discrimination been such a large issue for the Bar? It certainly isn't an issue at the bars of Wan Chai.

posted by Simon on 11.30.06 at 09:23 AM in the Hong Kong category.


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There's another catagory - one that no one talks about. The non-gweilo expats. If they wear t-shirts and shorts and walk around in Hong Kong they get no service because the locals think they're maids. The good news is that no one sits next to you on a bus so you can usually hog the whole seat.

posted by: Songshards on 11.30.06 at 09:59 AM [permalink]

I remember taking the bus a few times on Sunday morning, when it was full of domestic amahs on their way to Central for some socializing. On the way, it passed through a totally Chinese housing estate. These older ladies got on, sat down, and immediately wrinkled their noses and accused the Filipina ladies of smelling bad (even though all of them were freshly showered and dressed in their Sunday best). I made a comment in Cantonese making fun of them, after which they shut up in a grumbling sort of way.

It'd be nice if someone bothered to tell them (other than busybodies like me) that that sort of BS is unacceptable.

posted by: HK Dave on 11.30.06 at 01:42 PM [permalink]

I think that any law that forbids descrimination is a step to democracy and freedom for a country.

posted by: Rob on 12.01.06 at 12:17 PM [permalink]

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posted by: shskjh on 12.01.06 at 05:16 PM [permalink]

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