Unveiling Ethnic Minority Discrimination: Hong Kong Man Arrested for Targeted Attacks

A 23-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested for alleged discrimination against ethnic minority residents, highlighting systemic inequalities and advocating for Race Discrimination Ordinance amendments.

Unveiling Ethnic Minority Discrimination: Hong Kong Man Arrested for Targeted Attacks
XigshA91R6M, Jason Leung via Unsplash, April 2, 2021.


Marina Sáenz

East Asia Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.


In a distressing revelation of targeted discrimination, Hong Kong authorities apprehended a 23-year-old man on April 26th, 2024, in connection with a disturbing series of attacks aimed at ethnic minority residents. The suspect's alleged actions, including vandalising property and endangering lives, have sparked outrage and shed light on a troubling trend of prejudice within the city.

The apprehended individual is accused of a range of egregious offences targeting ethnic minority residents at On Yam Estate in Hong Kong. These include leaving human waste and refuse outside the homes of his victims, as well as hurling water-filled bags from elevated positions, endangering children playing in the estate's playgrounds. Furthermore, investigations revealed that the suspect tampered with water switches in the estate's buildings, resulting in the water supply being disconnected for more than 10 ethnic minority families.

Hong Kong, often celebrated as Asia’s world city and home to over 600,000 ethnic minorities comprising 8.4 percent of the population, has been grappling with issues of discrimination and social inclusion. In an effort to combat rampant discrimination, Hong Kong took a significant step forward with the implementation of The Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) in July 2009, aiming to safeguard citizens, including ethnic minorities, from racial discrimination. However, the effectiveness of this initiative has been compromised by numerous loopholes and exceptions. Despite its noble intentions, the RDO falls short in adequately protecting ethnic minorities against racial discrimination, inequality, and hate speech. Key shortcomings include its inapplicability to government functions, the absence of protection against discrimination based on nationality, citizenship, and resident status, and a failure to recognise language as a factor in discrimination. Moreover, vocational and educational institutions are not mandated to adapt their medium of instruction to ensure inclusivity.

The systemic inequalities entrenched within Hong Kong exacerbate the challenges faced by ethnic minorities. From immigration policies to educational institutions, barriers hinder certain groups from naturalising and establishing long-term communities. For instance, foreign domestic workers are denied residency rights, perpetuating a system that privileges select individuals deemed “desirable” while marginalising others as “unskilled” and disposable. Furthermore, education, a cornerstone of society, is rife with discrimination in Hong Kong. Language barriers pose significant hurdles for minority children, impeding their access to quality education conducted primarily in Cantonese. Despite government efforts to integrate non-Chinese-speaking students into mainstream schools, such initiatives have drawn criticism for inadvertently reinforcing segregation and exacerbating discrimination, as highlighted by the United Nations.

Furthermore, systemic discrimination against ethnic minorities in Hong Kong extends to policing and profiling practices. There is a troubling pattern of racial profiling by the police, with ethnically Chinese residents rarely subjected to stop-and-search procedures compared to non-ethnic Chinese individuals of colour. This inequality was highlighted in a well-known incident from 2011 when an 11-year-old Indian boy, a permanent resident, had a confrontation with a Chinese woman at a subway station. Despite his claims of assault, the police detained him while providing medical treatment to the woman. Despite the family's lawsuit alleging racial bias, the court ruled in favour of the police, citing a lack of evidence. Such disproportionate treatment perpetuates harmful stereotypes about darker-skinned minorities as unclean, dangerous, or untrustworthy, impacting various aspects of their daily lives, including housing and transportation.

Within the framework of international law, Hong Kong is bound by several significant treaties designed to eradicate racial discrimination, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Despite these legal obligations, doubts have been raised about Hong Kong's adherence to these treaties. In a scathing 2018 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticised the government's dismissal of racial discrimination as a prevalent issue. Specifically, the committee called for amendments to the RDO to encompass government powers and law enforcement actions, underscoring the necessity for comprehensive reforms to address systemic discrimination and safeguard the rights of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. Subsequently, the government pledged over 500 million Hong Kong dollars towards initiatives supporting minorities, spanning sectors such as social welfare and education. These initiatives include additional funding for mainstream public schools admitting non-Chinese-speaking students with special needs and collaborations with non-governmental organisations to enhance minority employment opportunities.

While it is evident that the government of Hong Kong has made efforts over the past decade to address racial discrimination, there remains a gap in understanding the root causes of the problem. Often, instances of discrimination are dismissed as mere misunderstandings rather than recognised as systemic issues requiring comprehensive solutions. However, there are signs of progress, with the media in Hong Kong increasingly shedding light on the challenges faced by ethnic minorities. This increased awareness represents a significant step forward in fostering understanding and advocating for the rights of minority communities in Hong Kong.


Sources and further reading:

Clifford Lo. (27 April 2024). Hong Kong police arrest man, 23, over acts of vandalism targeting ethnic minority residents. South China Morning Post. Accessed 30 April 2024. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3260618/hong-kong-police-arrest-man-23-over-acts-vandalism-targeting-ethnic-minority-residents

Raquel Carvalho. (7 May 2018). What happens when Hong Kong’s ethnic minority students are separated at school from ethnic Chinese children?. South China Morning Post. Accessed 30 April 2024. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2144877/what-happens-when-hong-kongs-ethnic-minority-students-are

Jessie Yeung. (22 August 2020). Spat at, segregated, policed: Hong Kong’s dark-skinned minorities say they’ve never felt accepted. CNN. Accessed 30 April 2024. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/08/21/asia/hong-kong-racism-intl-hnk-dst/index.html.

Hong Kong Unison. (2024). Eliminate Racial Discrimination. https://unison.org.hk/en/eliminate-racial-discrimination

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