Harinder Veriah

A coroner yesterday cast doubt on the standard of care given to a solicitor who died in a Hong Kong hospital after suffering an epileptic fit.

Recording an open verdict at St Pancras coroner’s court in central London at the inquest into the death of Harinder Veriah, 33, Stephen Chan said the evidence had questioned the level of care she received in the final 20 minutes before she died, as well as the management of her stay in hospital.

Ms Veriah, who was married to the former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, died on January 2 2000 after being admitted to hospital in the early hours of the previous day.

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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.

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When Harinder Veriah had an epileptic fit more than a year ago, no one realised it would trigger a chain of events that have helped expose Hong Kong’s great ‘dirty secret’.

On 2 January 2000 Veriah, known to her friends as Hari, died. Shortly before, she told her husband, the British journalist Martin Jacques, that she was at the ‘bottom of the pile’ at the hospital where she was being treated. She meant her skin colour and Indian race were responsible for a lack of attention.

Today an unusually large coalition of 12 organisations, including Indian, Filipino, Thai and Nepalese groups, is holding a memorial for Veriah and meeting to campaign for anti-racial discrimination legislation. Vandana Rajwani, a lawyer who is one of the meeting’s organisers, says they have been inundated with people wanting to participate.

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04/03/01 - A speech by Martin Jacques

Hari was born and brought up in Malaysia. She was an ethnic Indian, her family having emigrated from the Punjab almost a century earlier. As a young child she grew up in a Chinese area of Petaling Jaya, where she learnt Cantonese and came to understand and appreciate the Chinese Malaysians. She lost her mother when she was six and her father in her twenties. She grew up in poverty and adversity. Somehow, though, she was untouched by it. Rather than being bowed or scarred, she was ennobled by her background. She learnt how to stand on her own two feet and yet was possessed of an extraordinary compassion born of her experience of hardship.

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When Malaysia-born Harinder Veriah first arrived in Hong Kong to work with a leading British law firm she seemed to have all the qualifications to ensure years of success in this supposedly internationally minded and business-oriented city. Unlike most of the overseas professionals Hong Kong is keen to attract, she had the added advantage of speaking Cantonese, as well as flawless English, which remains the language of the law in Hong Kong.

But Ms. Veriah’s skin color was quite dark. And though both she and her husband, Martin Jacques, a well known British journalist and writer, had lived in London where racism is often close to the surface society, Ms. Veriah found in Hong Kong a new and more pernicious form of racial prejudice — one Mr. Jacques believes finally cost her her life a little more than a year ago.

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29/12/00 - South China Morning Post

The death of a young mother has reaffirmed an anti-racism group’s determination to continue with its work

THIS WAS SUPPOSED to be an article about the decline of a recently formed organisation which wanted racial discrimination outlawed in Hong Kong.

The group, Hong Kong Against Racial Discrimination (Hard), was on the verge of collapse just last month, its members having failed to hold a monthly meeting since February.

This story was going to convey the founders’ frustration and feeling of helplessness at the Government’s intransigence on the issue, refusing to make discrimination on the grounds of race illegal. It was going to trace the death of Hard.

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04/12/00 - South China Morning Post

The government has a blind spot to an obvious problem – racism. On November 30, the acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Kwan Wing-wah, said that Hong Kong did not need laws to prohibit race discrimination because the problem is not serious here.

Yes, thankfully there is no racial violence or overt racial tension. That does not mean there is no serious discrimination. It is disingenuous to argue that the degree of seriousness depends on whether there is violence. The Government would be severely criticised if it applied the same measure to discrimination against the disabled. There is no violence against the disabled, and yet no one argues anymore that there shouldn’t be laws to protect them from discrimination.

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26/11/00 - The Sunday Times

A year after his young wife’s sudden death, Martin Jacques tells Margarette Driscoll he will never accept the way his life has been torn apart

The streets of Hong Kong were thronged on Millennium Eve, as its citizens ushered in the new century in style. There was no hope of getting a tram: the public transport system had ground to a halt because of the crowds. Instead, Martin Jacques and his Malaysian wife, Hari, walked well over a mile to meet some friends outside the Excelsior hotel in Causeway Bay. They arrived at midnight and saw in the new year standing outside the hotel entrance.

At about 1am, Hari, who had been unwell for just over a day, shouted: “Martin, Martin!” Jacques, a former editor of the British magazine Marxism Today, knew immediately what was happening. Hari sank to the floor, her eyes twitching wildly and her arms and legs jerking uncontrollably.

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26/11/00 - South China Morning Post

Martin Jacques found his soul mate in Harinder Veriah; it was a passion that knew no cultural bounds. But in Hong Kong, he says she faced racism in everyday life and believes it was ultimately responsible for her untimely death in hospital

One afternoon in December 1993, a journalist called Martin Jacques and a lawyer called Harinder Veriah sat over lunch in Hong Kong and made a number of life-changing decisions. Jacques, who was 47, lived in London and had a partner of 18 years; Veriah, who was 26, was Malaysian, lived in Kuala Lumpur, and was also involved in a relationship. They had met on Tioman, off the east coast of Malaysia, the previous August. They had just spent a week together and knew that they couldn’t continue life without each other.

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22/11/00 - South China Morning Post

More could have been done by hospital staff to help a woman who died after an epileptic fit, but it was unlikely this would have saved her life, a coroner said yesterday.

Recording a verdict of death by natural causes in the case of Harinder Veriah, Coroner Andrew Chan Hing-wai made no reference to allegations raised by her husband that Ruttonjee Hospital staff discriminated against his wife because of her race.

Veriah, 33, an ethnic-Indian solicitor from England, had a fit and collapsed on January 1 – a day after her birthday – while celebrating the millennium in Causeway Bay. She was sent to the hospital, where she suffered another fit on January 2 and died about four hours later.

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