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February 2000

Prejudice against mainlanders

Breaking down the barriers

By Alison Yeung

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A teenage immigrant from the mainland committed suicide. In her last letter, she wrote of the hard life she led in Hong Kong.

This again sparked concern about the welfare of mainland immigrants. Discrimination against child immigrants has become a hot topic again.

Mr. Hui Chi Kit, a teacher in Wu Si Chong Memorial School, does not think that discrimination is serious in his school.

Said he: “Some pupils even admire child immigrants’ learning performance and talents in art.”

Mr. Lui Wing Wai and Ms Fu Suk Yin, executive secretary of The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong, also said that severe discrimination is rare.

However, Ms Fu said that they hold prejudices against each other because the two groups lack contact.

“Moreover, local children are influenced by their parents and the mass media.

“Therefore, their bad attitude towards child immigrants is formed before they have contact with the mainland children.

“However, prejudice will disappear easily if there is contact between the two groups,” said she.

Meanwhile, newcomers have their own attitudes towards local children.

Kwok Siu Yee immigrated to Hong Kong a year ago.

She used to think Hong Kong children were arrogant.

Said she: “I did not know how to write my English name and my classmates taught me, but they made me feel they looked down upon me.”

Apart from misunderstanding between the two groups, child immigrants also have difficulty in adapting to the new lifestyle.

And these problems impose pressure on them.

Said Ms Fu: “The mental health of child immigrants is a great concern.

“Too much pressure will adversely affect their attitude towards society.

“We are now dealing with cases of some anti-social teenagers.”

In order to remedy these problems, The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong is launching a programme called “Open Up the Sky”.

The programme aims at helping these two groups to build up relations by putting them together.

Under the program, both groups of children participate in games which help them to know their differences.

The Association also organizes visit to local and immigrant families.

After all the visits and sharing, the children will produce a VCD together. The VCD will be distributed to the schools and local communities.

Said Mr. Lui: “What we emphasize is cooperation. Through cooperation, prejudice can be eliminated.”

The program is being carried out in all branches of the Association.

However, the people in charge at some branches find that it is difficult to recruit local participants.

The Tsing Yi branch of the Association failed to recruit any local members.

Said Ms Fu: “Local children lack motivation to join the activities because they are somehow narrow-minded and self-centered.

“They think immigrants are none of their business.

“We see that not all local children are ready to accept child immigrants.”

The immigrants’ parents do not understand the meaning of the program, either.

Despite these difficulties, the programme is successful to a certain extent.

“At least child immigrants feel that they are accepted by the local community,” Ms Fu said.

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Children from the mainland not only have to cope with the problem of prejudice, but also must adapt to a new lifestyle. (Alison Yeung)

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The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong

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