Officially-sponsored racism in Hong Kong has taken another leap forward this month with the announcement that the government is considering abolishing visa-free access for visitors from India and Indonesia. Ethnic cleansing aims to reduce the attractions of the city to Asians not carrying the superior Han genes.
The visa news coincided with a visit to India by Chief Executive C.Y.Leung in company with a group of businessmen supposedly to foster links with the largest nation on the One Belt One Road route. Leung, not known for his interest in any Asian country other than his own, has been parroting Beijing’s OBOR mantra, mentioning it four times in a recent policy speech .But he seemed not to care that though he was accorded a meeting with Prime Minister Modi, Indians aware of Hong Kong’s latest announcement felt deeply insulted.The general Hong Kong disdain for India,in sharp contrast to Singapore’s efforts to build ties, was reflected by the South China Morning Post, which consigned the Leung-Modi meeting to an inside page of its City section.
Actual policies stand in sharp contrast to the fostering of ties which OBOR is supposed to promote. The threat to end visa-free access to the two largest brown-skin Asian nations is on the grounds that this is a route for asylum seekers. The lie is obvious: almost all the asylum seekers come from countries which do not have visa-free access – Pakistan, Bangladesh, and a slew of countries in the Middle East and Africa. An Asia Sentinel request to the Immigration Department for numbers of Indonesian asylum-seekers has been met with silence. It is believed that the few are mainly former domestic helpers who have had their contracts terminated by Hong Kong employers and used the asylum route in a desperate attempt not to be deported.
The asylum issue which the government ignores, because Leung can never say anything critical of mainland officials, is that most seekers arrive from the mainland itself. They manage to enter China whether legally or not and then are smuggled into Hong Kong by mainland syndicates. Given its subservient status, the Hong Kong government has no idea how to respond to this. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and must survive on a tiny official handout.
As a result some turn to drug dealing and other illicit activities while others find ready employment, but at a fraction of local wages, with construction companies. There they join a small army of illegal workers from both the mainland and subcontinent to whom the government, as ever the supporter of the interests of the property and construction sector, turns a blind eye.
Blind eyes are also turned to the plight of abused domestic workers who mostly come from Indonesia and the Philippines, as is well known. Laws on the books go unenforced by police, immigration and labor department officials. Meanwhile police spend huge amounts of manpower trying to chase helpers who have overstayed and work illegally or prosecute them for minor offences such as selling clothes online – illegal because they are only allowed to be household slaves, not to show any initiative to make money in what should be legitimate ways.
In the case of Indians, official racism will even hurt business. At a time when mainland visitor numbers have been falling, the numbers of tourists from India has been rising and are now a significant contributor to the local industry.
But do not imagine that even business interests can override the attitudes and policies which make a farce of Hong Kong’s claim to be Asia’s World City.