Market Malady

27 March 2008

Ethnic Segregation, Maids and Shopping in Hong Kong

Hong Kong at night, by wok, with Creative Commons licenceHong Kong is renowned for two things: its libertarian economy and its cosmopolitan outlook. Here the dollar is king, and people from around the world can meet, exchange and learn in the market. It’s the economics of the human condition. Or it would be, if the city weren’t ethnically segregated.

No, you say, surely not! But consider this first up: in presenting the 2006 by-census data, the Race Relations Unit of the local government describes the 95% majority in ethnic terms as “Han Chinese”. Then it labels all fair-skinned non-Chinese residents as “self-identified” (because that’s the only choice they’re given on the census) “white”, and lists other minority groups under national designations such as “Indonesians”, “Filipinos” and “Nepalese”.

Raceposter1, by tamarabianca11, with Creative Commons licence So, despite a Race Relations Unit committee that is supposed to promote ‘racial harmony’, for minorities we have one term that coheres a range of dissimilar ethnic groups under a skin colour that is no more white, and often less so, than the appearance of many ‘authentic’ locals, and designations that deliberately separate ethically similar people (Indonesians and Filipinos are both ethnic Malays). Framing this wayward categorisation we have the curious use of “Han Chinese”, when almost everyone here identifies with the Cantonese ethnic subgroup.

But, of course, we’re part of China now, and all Chinese should be the patriotic same.

Read the rest of this entry »