05/03/01 - South China Morning Post

Racism must be outlawed if Hong Kong is to be a truly international city, activists said yesterday as they launched the “Hong Kong Against Racial Discrimination” campaign.

Anna Wu Hung-yuk, who chairs the Equal Oportunity Commission, said the number of complaints of racial discrimination last year – 66 – was twice the total of the three previous years. She said the commission was advocating new legislation, since at present it was only able to act on complaints about discrimination on grounds of disability or gender.

About 200 people met at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to launch the campaign. Victims recounted instances that they said occurred almost daily, ranging from subtle forms of unfair treatment to outright racial abuse.

The campaign was established in memory of Indian lawyer Harinder Veriah, 33. Her husband, journalist Martin Jacques, claimed she died at Ruttonjee Hospital in January last year as a result of sub-standard treatment because of her race. A coroner later ruled there was no evidence of racism and a verdict of natural death was returned.

“The racist discrimination my wife encountered here far exceeded what she experienced when she was in London,” Mr. Jacques said yesterday.

Filipino Alejandra Domingo, mother of rabies victim Cristina Solano who died at Tuen Mun Hospital in July 1999, said her 22 year-old daughter died because of her race. “She wanted to go to the toilet and asked for the nurses to help, but no one came to her aid. She then tried to walk by herself but fell down. The nurses came and said: “This Filipino girl is really troublesome’,” Ms Domingo said. The Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of natural death in the case.

Barrister and campaign spokeswoman Vandana Rajwani said people often underestimated the prevalence of racial intolerance in Hong Kong. She said the situation was worse than the Government would admit.

“Many people are treated without equal dignity and without equal opportunity simply because of the colour of their skin. Hong Kong will lost much of its cosmopolitan talents and characteristics,” she said.

The campaign will collect signatures from the public to press the Government to introduce legislation against racial abuse. The signature collection will be given to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Former legislative councillor Christine Loh Kung-wai said education alone was not enough to fight racism, while barrister and legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said Hong Kong’s racism was a legacy of the colonial era. Ms Ng, who was previously against legislation on racial discrimination, said she had changed her mind. A spokesman for the Home Affairs Bureau said the Government acknowledged the problem but believed it was not very serious.

– Chow Chung-yan