Nepalis in Hong Kong

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These is a moderate ethnic minority population of Nepalese people in Hong Kong (referred to as 'Hong Kong Nepalese'), forming roughly 0.5% of the total population (approximately 40,000 Hong Kong Nepalese citizens).[1] They primarily came to the territory as part of the Gurkha brigade of the British Army. After the handover in 1997, they were permitted to stay in Hong Kong. Majority of the Nepali population of Hong Kong are the children and grandchildren of Gurkha soldiers who were fierce fighters serving the British Army from 1814. [2]

Nepalese are not totally invisible in the society; they are visible in media discourse as well as the government policies. Also, they are relatively organized, having established their own NGOs to fight for their rights. The Nepalese are one of the fastest growing ethnic minorities in Hong Kong.[3]

Background and social history[edit]

Nepalese people began to come to Hong Kong in the 1970s, as part of the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas. They continued in this employment until 1997. Their primary duties were to deter illegal immigrants and protect local residents. Most of them lived in Whitfield Barracks and Shek Kong Barracks.

After 30 June 1997, the British Government withdrew from Hong Kong and the Gurkha brigade disbanded. These Gurkhas and their children had the right to take up residence in Hong Kong.[4] Also in 2008, a law of the UK was passed which claimed that those Gurkhas retired before 1997 would be eligible to live in United Kingdom as citizens.[5]

Nepalese who choose to stay in Hong Kong want to take root there, especially if their children who were born in Hong Kong. They have Hong Kong Identity Cards but their nationality is still Nepalese. Without Chinese nationality, they are ineligible to apply for an SAR passport or a ‘home return permit’ .[6]

There are over 40 NGOs organized by Nepalese in Hong Kong and these social organizations have government licenses. The Southern League Organization and Hong Kong Gurkha (Nepal) associations [7] are the two main NGOs helping the Nepalese in Hong Kong. Some of the NGOs are formed by difference lineages; they provide services and share relevant news happening in Hong Kong or Nepal to different lineages, such as the lineage of Limbu, Rai, Palungwa, etc.

Life in Hong Kong[edit]

Occupations[edit]

The second or younger generations of the Nepalese mainly work as security guards and construction workers after 1997. More than 80% of Nepalese are working in elementary occupation.[8]

Community and housing[edit]

The Nepalese in Hong Kong mainly live in Yau Tsim Mong area (33.2% of Hong Kong's Nepali population, and 2.4% of the district's population being Nepali) and Yuen Long area (33.9%; 0.8%).[9] As Kowloon Park was a main military camp for the brigade from Nepal, as well as Shek Kong in Yuen Long, they chose to live nearby after they left the camp. Some of them live in Wai Chai where they first arrived; in fact their communities spread out to more districts nowadays.

Nepalese mainly live in tenement houses. As they would prefer staying together, they would divide a flat into rooms. They rarely choose public housing, as they would be dispersed to different districts. Another reason is the time of public housing application is too long, even they can succeed, and they would be arranged to remote areas. Thus, public housing is not their preference for housing.[citation needed]

Languages[edit]

The Nepalese have different languages according to their ethnicities, which are divided by different lineages; they learn their own languages before they can speak Nepali. Apart from their national languages, they speak English and Cantonese less fluently. Although the elder generation was born in Hong Kong, their proficiency in Cantonese remains poor. Some would attribute the problem to the prohibition of learning or communicating with locals in the military camp.[citation needed] Restriction of learning Cantonese was a measure of the British to stabilize the military force.

Media[edit]

In Hong Kong, there are some ethnic newspapers for Nepalese. Everest Weekly and Sunrise Weekly is one of the examples. Both Nepal and Hong Kong news are included in its content. Since Chinese language is their weakness, the news is mainly translated from the South China Morning Post to Nepalese by a group of Nepalese part-time staff.[citation needed] It is rather popular and each publication reaches 3,500 sales volume.

Education[edit]

Applying for school[edit]

In the school year of 2009/10, the Hong Kong Government has selected 17 primary schools and 9 secondary schools located in different main areas of Hong Kong that are designated for receiving intensive on-site support to enhance the learning and teaching of non-Chinese students.[10] However, most Nepalese parents encounter difficulties in applying for school places since they cannot get access to official information .[11] Instead, Nepalese parents often search for information within their own community.[citation needed]

As there is no special arrangement for Nepalese students in the school allocation system, their choice is limited to those mentioned schools for non-Chinese students. The mother tongue teaching policy for native-level Cantonese speakers was implemented in 1998. At that time, the policy dramatically reduced the number of English medium of instruction (EMI) secondary school.[12] The rest of the EMI schools are either highly competitive or relatively expensive. Thus, those schools that are lower level are often the choices left for Nepalese children. School choices are even more limited after Form 5 since they have no legal rights to education after the age of fifteen (when the compulsory education ends). Other than studying in Hong Kong, some Nepalese parents would send their children to receive cheaper education in Nepal until university graduation.

After Nepalese students graduate from secondary school, choices of enrolling in local tertiary education are limited, since most of the tertiary institutions and programs require passing Advance level (matriculation) or Advance Supplementary (AS) Chinese Language and Culture examination. The Chinese Language in General Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations (GCSE) that they mainly take is always not accepted, as the examination does not meet the basic standards of those tertiary institutions.[13] It is extremely hard for Nepalese to enroll in local tertiary education.

School life and assistance[edit]

Although the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau has designed special teaching material for ethnic minorities for the last 10 years,[citation needed] students still find it difficult to learn Chinese. As this is a second language to them, students would have poorer engagement and achievements in learning .[14] Meanwhile the Education Bureau does not seem to have modified the teaching materials according to their learning abilities and needs, the materials adopted are often lack of experts’ support and teachers’ trainings .[15]

Nepalese students can enjoy similar welfare with locals. They can apply for financial assistance in education like School Textbook Assistance and Student Travel Subsidy Schemes, though the relevant information may not be sufficient to all Nepalese.[citation needed] In terms of language education, there are no special Chinese language classes provided by the school unless they fail in the exams.[citation needed] Instead, some NGOs organize Chinese language and adaptation classes to assist them[16] while the Home Affairs Department offers short-term tutorials to them.

Qualifications[edit]

As the GCSE Examination in Chinese is not broadly accepted in Hong Kong society for its perceived low standard,[17] the Nepalese graduates are often not qualified for jobs like civil servant jobs or disciplined services. The requirements on the Chinese certificates and proficiency of written Chinese are often significant barriers for them, even though some of them could speak and listen to Cantonese very well. On the other hand, those academic qualifications granted in Nepal are also not accepted by employers.[citation needed] Thus, with no guarantee and support on their academic qualifications, they can hardly enter any professions.

Public visibility[edit]

Media discourse[edit]

In January 2009, a homeless Nepalese (named Limbu Dil Bahadur) was shot dead by a policeman.[18] The policeman arrived to deal with a nuisance complaint about the man, who had been sleeping rough on a hillside in To Kwa Wan. Claiming that he was attacked, the policeman fired two shots and the Nepalese was dead. After that some media conjectured that the incident was caused by language problem. However, two days later, the media found that the Nepalese was born in Hong Kong and he could speak Cantonese. Mainstream media based on the 2-3 minute video clip[19] and reported this news to a discussion about “illegal snake being damaging to social security” and claimed that they were in Hong Kong to “seek cash”. Other newspapers even had a headline “courageous police officer shot dead a hillside villain”.[citation needed] Nevertheless some media such as Ming Pao and Economic Daily quoted from a hiker who said that he never perceived the homeless dangerous to others. Subsequently the courts ruled that the man was lawfully killed.

The mainstream media tend to stereotype the Nepalese in Hong Kong as “lazy vagrants.”[20] The media tend to depict the negative side of them,[21] with relatively fewer reports on their contributions to Hong Kong society.[22]

Government policies[edit]

There were no local policies protecting the rights for Nepalese until 2008. In July 2008, an anti-discrimination law The Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) was enacted and it has come to operation since 10 July 2009.[23] From the RDO, “ it is unlawful to discriminate, harass or vilify a person on the ground of his/her race”. Yet there has been a number of criticisms on the ordinance, for instance, only the part ‘Discrimination and Harassment in Employment Field’ has been implemented so far.[24] Also, the direct involvement of ethnic minorities in legislation was relatively low,[25] due to insufficient promotion of the Bill during its consultation period.

Discourse of the group[edit]

Though they are always not recognized as "Hong Kongers", the Nepalese are still eager to contribute to Hong Kong society.[citation needed] In fact they would like to be hired as police officers or firefighters, though their not understanding the local language may, justifiably, limit their opportunities. (On the other hand, those who have proficiency in languages such as Nepali in addition to Chinese and English will be prioritised for recruitment by the police.[26]) Nepalese are relatively organized compared to other minority groups in Hong Kong. Gurkha Security Services Limited launched various kinds of talks and workshops on workers’ policies.[citation needed] Besides, the Nepalese in Hong Kong did have several times of demonstrations due to different kinds of issues, for example the demand of democracy in their country,[27] and demand an apology for the fatal shooting by a police officer of a Nepalese man, as mentioned above.[28]

Difficulty Encountered[edit]

Naturally one living in a place but not knowing the local language encounters difficulty for himself/herself and others in daily life. According to the RDO, people treated differently because of language barriers are not classified as being discriminated.

Some Nepalese in Hong Kong are facing difficulties because of their culture is different from the local Chinese. For instance, the police check their HKID cards usually simply due to misunderstanding of language and cultural difference.[29] This would cause discomfort and inconvenience to the Nepalese.

In order to improve the situation, the Hong Kong government provides a new set of guidelines for the police who garrison in Yau Tsim Mong district. Tips on speaking Nepalese and brief introduction to minority cultures are provided, in order to ease their communication and reduce the appearance of direct discrimination.[30]

In terms of career, the Labour Department is one of the important sources for finding jobs. However, its recruitment notices are posted mostly in Chinese, therefore it is difficult for those Nepalese who do not understand Chinese well enough to identify a suitable job. Besides, most of the job training courses are offered in Cantonese, such as the construction training programs. In this regard Punarjiwan Society is committed to build an independent Nepali body to help Nepali community in its crusade against drug-abuse and other negative issue. It is self-supporting Organization dedicated to improving the lot of Local Hong Kong Nepalis.

Moreover, the salary of Nepalese workers in Hong Kong is usually lower than that of local workers, even if they work longer hours. More than 46% of Nepalese construction workers whose earning is less than $12,000 a month but more than 60% of them work for 60 hours per week.[31] Nepalese workers earn $100 less than the locals in average per day.[32] The situation of female workers is even worse. Also, many of them are hired on a daily basis rather than in monthly terms. This results in them having less stable jobs than the locals. Nonetheless, many of them would continue to work for their companies because they cannot afford to risk losing the income .[33]

In terms of public services, although the public hospitals provide services in English or Chinese to non-local patients, Nepalese sometimes find difficulties to communicate with their doctors, even when they perceive a different treatment from the locals.[citation needed] Translation is often needed, particularly in medical services and education.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1099239/jordan-home-battling-nepali-community
  2. ^ http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1099239/jordan-home-battling-nepali-community
  3. ^ http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1099239/jordan-home-battling-nepali-community
  4. ^ Sautman, Barry. (2006) Hong Kong as a semi-ethnocracy: “Race”, migration and citizenship in a globalised region, ‘Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong’, London: Routledge, p.122
  5. ^ Simpson, Aislinn:Gurkhas win High Court battle to stay in UK. (2008). Retrieved April 10, 2010,from, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/defence/3110530/Gurkhas-win-High-Court-battle-to-stay-in-the-UK.html
  6. ^ The ‘home return permits’ is also called hui xiang zheng, it allows visa-free entry to Mainland. Sautman, Barry. (2006) Hong Kong as a semi-ethnocracy: “Race”, migration and citizenship in a globalised region, ‘Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong’, London: Routledge, p.125
  7. ^ Hong Kong Gurkha (Nepal) associations, http://www.gurkha.com.hk/index.html;The Gurkha International Group was founded in 1994 by members of the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas to provide reputable employment for Nepalese men and women worldwide. This organization aims to provide efficient and reliable Nepalese recruiting and security services to employers worldwide and to establish Nepal as a source of trained seafarers for the international maritime industry.
  8. ^ Census and Statistics Department, Thematic Report- Ethnic Minorities. (2001) p.58
  9. ^ Census and Statistics Department, Thematic Report- Ethnic Minorities. (2001) p.58
  10. ^ Education Bureau, Education For Non-Chinese Speaking Children (n.d.) Retrieved April 9, 2010, from. http://www.edb.gov.hk/FileManager/EN/Content_4405/information%20notes-%20ncs_8%20oct%202009%20(for%20uploading).pdf
  11. ^ Loper, Kelly. (2004) Race and Equality: A study of Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong’s Education System, Centre for Comparartive and Public law and Unison Hong Kong-for ethnic Equality, p.3
  12. ^ Lao, Christy Ying.& Krashen, Stephen. (1999)Implementation of Mother-Tongue Teaching in Hong Kong Secondary Schools, Some Recent Reports, Discover, Oct, available at: http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/ncbepubs/discover/05hongkong.htm.
  13. ^ 「少數族裔不懂中文搵工難 」,《星島日報》,2009年8月12日。
  14. ^ McInerney, Dennis M. (2010) The Role of Sociocultural Factors in Shaping Student Engagement in Hong Kong: An ethnic minority perspective, Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  15. ^ 少數族裔關注組, 「對少數族裔兒童教育情況的意見及建議」,2006年1月。
  16. ^ Education and Manpower Bureau, Education and Support Service for non-Chinese speaking children(2006) Retrieved April 9, 2010, from http://www.edb.gov.hk/FileManager/EN/Content_4782/ncsc%20leaflet%20-%20(english)16_6_06.pdf
  17. ^ 「少數族裔不懂中文搵工難 」,《星島日報》,2009年8月12日。
  18. ^ Officer describes fatal shooting of Nepali,China Daily (Hong Kong). September 15, 2009
  19. ^ 「警員何文田開槍案擊斃巴籍漢 」,蘋果動新聞,2009年3月18日 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlErqSFnn7s&feature=player_embedded
  20. ^ 「探射燈:康文署公園變露天賭場」,《東方日報》,2010年1月25日
  21. ^ Loper ,Kelley. (2001) Cultivating a Multicultural Society and Combating Racial Discrimination in Hong Kong
  22. ^ 「膚色異 態度異 少數即弱勢」,《經濟日報》,2009年8月25日
  23. ^ Equal Opportunities Commission, Race Discrimination Ordinance and I (n.d.) Retrieved April 11, 2010,from, http://www.eoc.org.hk/EOC/GraphicsFolder/showcontent.aspx?content=Race%20Discrimination%20Ordinance%20and%20I
  24. ^ Race Discrimination Ordinance, The Government of The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Gazette, Retrieved March 26, 2010,from, http://www.gld.gov.hk/cgi-bin/gld/egazette/gazettefiles.cgi?lang=e&year=2008&month=7&day=18&vol=12&no=29&gn=29&header=1&part=1&df=1&nt=s1&newfile=1&acurrentpage=12&agree=1&gaz_type=ls1
  25. ^ 「種族歧視立法諮詢 論者稱豁免條款寬鬆」,本地教會,3168期,http://kkp.catholic.org.hk/lo/lo3168.htm
  26. ^ Republica, "Joining HK police made easier for Nepalis", May 20, 2011 http://archives.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=31477
  27. ^ 葉蔭聰︰「我今天與尼泊爾朋友一起上街」,2006年4月23日http://www.inmediahk.net/node/107259
  28. ^ 2,000 march over fatal police shooting. South China Morning Post March 30, 2009
  29. ^ 余鳳明︰「警員學非華裔習俗減誤會」,《星島日報》,2010年2月22日
  30. ^ 余鳳明︰「警員學非華裔習俗減誤會」,《星島日報》,2010年2月22日
  31. ^ Frost, Stephen. Building Hong Kong: Nepalese Labour in Construction Sector, Journal of Contemporary Asia; 2004; Academic Research Library, p,373
  32. ^ 「尼人被歧視薪低工時長」,《頭條日報》,2009年10月12日
  33. ^ 李靜敏︰「南亞移民工人的默默承受 」,《公教報》,2010年3月7日

References[edit]

Books and journals[edit]

  • Census and Statistics Department, Thematic Report- Ethnic Minorities. (2001)
  • Frost, Stephen .Building Hong Kong: Nepalese Labour in Construction Sector, Journal of Contemporary Asia;2004; Academic Research Library
  • Lao, Christy Ying.& Krashen, Stephen. (1999)Implementation of Mother-Tongue Teaching in Hong Kong Secondary Schools, Some Recent Reports, Discover, Oct
  • Loper, Kelley. (2001)Cultivating a Multicultural Society and Combating Racial Discrimination in Hong Kong
  • Loper, Kelly. (2004) Race and Equality: A study of Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong’s Education System, Centre for Comparartive and Public law and Unison Hong Kong-for ethnic Equality
  • McInerney, Dennis M. (2010) The Role of Sociocultural Factors in Shaping Student Engagement in Hong Kong: An ethnic minority perspective, Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • Sautman, Barry. (2006) Hong Kong as a semi-ethnocracy: “Race”, migration and citizenship in a globalised region, ‘Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong’, London: Routledge, p. 122
  • 少數族裔關注組, 「對少數族裔兒童教育情況的意見及建議」,2006年1月。

Internet resources[edit]

News[edit]

  • 2,000 march over fatal police shooting. South China Morning Post March 30, 2009
  • Officer describes fatal shooting of Nepali,China Daily (Hong Kong). September 15, 2009
  • 「少數族裔不懂中文搵工難 」,《星島日報》,2009年8月12日
  • 「探射燈:康文署公園變露天賭場」,《東方日報》,2010年1月25日
  • 「膚色異 態度異 少數即弱勢」,《經濟日報》,2009年8月25日
  • 「警員何文田開槍案擊斃巴籍漢 」,蘋果動新聞,2009年3月18日 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlErqSFnn7s&feature=player_embedded
  • 「尼人被歧視薪低工時長」,《頭條日報》,2009 年10月12日
  • 李靜敏︰「南亞移民工人的默默承受 」,《公教報 》,2010年3月7日
  • 練乙錚︰「論種族歧視條例的四大爭議」,《信報》,2008年7月10日
  • 余鳳明︰「警員學非華裔習俗減誤會」,《星島日報》,2010年2月22日。