Her efforts to fight against racism and for social equality have won her acclaim in some quarters and vilification from others. Some have condemned her as a “traitor” for helping the “outsiders” but she does not care about such comments. Wong is not one to yield to pressure. However, she has come to believe that her leadership of Unison has become an impediment to the advancement of the organisation’s work and aims.
This is because she thinks certain government officials and the Education Bureau consider her such a nuisance that they refuse to deal with her. In the past, Wong tried to brush this aside and engage with them. “[I’m] so naïve that I’ll make a point of going up and greeting them,” Wong says. “But it is really heartbreaking. I’m just trying to serve the ethnic minorities and they treat me like this, so does this mean the ethnic minorities aren’t even people in [the officials’ eyes]?”
Wong has been pushing hard for ethnic minority children to be taught in the same classes and schools as ethnic Chinese children and for the introduction of a Chinese as a second language curriculum to help children from non-Chinese speaking families to acquire proficiency.
Although she has succeeded in raising awareness and discussion of these issues, she believes she is unable to make any more headway and that Education Bureau officials will refuse to listen to any requests once they know they come from her. “If my existence hinders the development of the matter, I should leave,” Wong sighs.
Although she feels as though her work with Unison has hit a roadblock, she remains optimistic about the organisation’s future development. Having been in the driving seat for so long she fears she may have developed a blind spot, so a handover may be healthy for the organisation.
And she has had her triumphs. While it has not been easy, Unison’s work has been widely recognised in the community and won her a lot of friends, supporters and comrades. All of which reminds her that Hong Kong is still a place where people can fight for a multicultural society, equality and social justice.
Wong, who arrived as a new immigrant in the early 1980s, is fully aware of the difference between mainland China and Hong Kong. Therefore, she particularly treasures Hong Kong’s values and uniqueness.
As a child, Wong lived in a village in Quanzhou, Fujian. Her father came to Hong Kong to seek a better life in the early 1970s. His wife and four children joined him later. Wong was 11 when she left Fujian.
Before coming to Hong Kong, Wong lived through part of the Cultural Revolution in the Mainland. Although she was young, it left an impression. “When I was small, I just knew you could not speak freely but I did not know why,” she says. One time, she casually asked her mother what Chairman Mao Zedong ate, as he was like a deity in her mind. Irritated by her daughter’s constant barrage of questions, her mother quipped that Chairman Mao ate Premier Zhou Enlai’s faeces.
Wong was shocked, and boasted about her “great discovery” in front of other villagers right in the ancestral hall. The next day, the village head came to her house with other villagers and scolded her mother for not teaching her well. Later, the incident would remind her of the power of words.
Apart from not having freedom of speech, there was no press freedom in the Mainland at that time and so there was very little information beyond officially sanctioned propaganda. There were many myths circulating about Hong Kong.