The alleged rape of a Mainland Chinese college student by an Indian man in Hong Kong has triggered some racialist outrage on Chinese social media websites. According to reports in Chinese and Hong Kong media, a 26-year-old Indian delivery worker raped a 21-year-old Beijing student (who was on holiday) in a cheap hotel in the seedy Chungking Mansions area.
The Indian suspect, who was arrested following identification by CCTV cameras, reportedly had been living in Hong Kong for several years and was seeking political asylum there. The Indian man lived in the hotel, which apparently has communal, shared bathrooms, often making life inconvenient for female travelers.
Given the widespread global coverage of rapes and gang-rapes in India, commentators on China’s Sina Weibo weighed in on the latest incident, sometimes in a very hostile manner. “India really does produce an abundance of rapists,” wrote one commenter. Another demanded: “Prohibit Indians from entering our borders.” Yet another disparaged Indians as a whole, by stating: “India, truly, other than their funny accent, I have no favorable impression.”
Indians have long been established in Hong Kong since the days it was a British colony. They have also complained of racism and discrimination directed at them by the dominant Chinese community. In an op-ed in the South China Morning Post, Dr. York Chow Yat-ngok, chairperson of the local Equal Opportunities Commission, wrote that racism against ethnic minorities is pervasive in Hong Kong.
He cited a survey taken by a group called Hong Kong Unison, an NGO, which revealed that half of the (presumably Chinese) respondents said they would not accept Africans, Nepalis, Pakistanis, Filipinos or Indians in their personal lives, including as friends or spouses. Another survey indicated that one-third of Hong Kong residents would not lease an apartment to an African, South Asian or Middle Eastern tenant.
“It’s embarrassing,” Fermi Wong, executive director of Unison and a formal social worker, told The Wall Street Journal about racism in Hong Kong. “You hope things get better, but this is very sad.”
According to the CIA World Factbook, about 94 percent of Hong Kong’s 7 million people are of Chinese descent, with the remainder comprising mostly South and East Asians. Hong Kong’s first anti-racism law, the Racial Discrimination Ordinance, went into effect in 2009, but casual as well as blatant acts of discrimination against ethnic minorities persist.
An Indian businessman told the Global Times that he often has difficulty hailing taxis in Hong Kong. "It must have been my South Asian face," he said. "This has happened to me many times." A Filipino woman who works as a maid complained that she feels “looked down upon” by the Chinese and frequently is cheated by market vendors.
In March of this year, Hong Kong’s top court unanimously ruled against proving permanent residency status to domestic servants, most of whom come from The Philippines or Indonesia. They reportedly number some 300,000.
Today is a very sad day for migrant workers in Hong Kong,” said Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, of the decision. “With the court’s ruling today, it gave its judicial seal to unfair treatment and the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.”