Mainland Chinese Integration in Hong Kong

James Downes argues that more must be done to improve the integration of mainland Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong and in creating an inclusive society, with the current integration targeted programmes for new arrivals falling short of international standards.

Source: Ed Jones / AFP / Getty Images

Hong Kong Immigration Policy

Immigration policy in Hong Kong has been characterized by two policies, namely the One Way Permit Policy (OWP) alongside the Talent Entrants scheme. Since the handover of sovereignty from British colonial rule in 1997, the number of OWP's has been fixed between the Hong Kong and Chinese Governments. The OWP allows mainland Chinese immigrants to take up residence in Hong Kong and 150 permits are issued by the relevant Chinese departments as a way of reuniting families from the mainland. The other core policy since the handover are the Talent Entrants scheme policies. This scheme has sought to bring in immigrants from mainland China and other countries who have specialist skills that are in short supply, in order to improve the economic competitiveness of the current labour market in Hong Kong. This article discusses the social, cultural and economic problems which have hindered the integration of mainlanders into Hong Kong society, specifically those who have come to Hong Kong under the OWP scheme.

Integration Problems

Mainlanders frequently face a range of social, cultural and economic problems adapting to Hong Kong society and public opinion surveys have shown that they face prejudice and discrimination with "verbal and even physical clashes taking place." Incidents on the MTR have been reported alongside mainlanders encountering discrimination when picking up their children from school. Incidents such as these are likely to have a long-term psychological effect. The anti-locust campaign whilst being primarily aimed at mainland tourists, has further shown the antipathy towards mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. Furthermore, language differences are also another problem that are faced by mainlanders, in having to learn Cantonese. Wide gaps also continue to persist in income inequality between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese, with educational disparities prevalent. Explanations for anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong can largely be attributed to perceived competition over scarce resources in Hong Kong, such as housing, education and transport and may be driving these perceptions that some Hong Kong citizens hold.

Current Guidelines

Government integration policy towards immigrants is a common international standard. The European Union has a core set of integration policies which member states can adopt towards non-EU immigrants across member states, alongside countries such as Canada which has a flagship Immigrant Integration program (CIIP) for specially skilled migrants and provides new immigrants with pre-departure training alongside information for skilled specialist workers. The CIIP scheme also provides cultural training for new immigrants and pre-departure information about Canadian culture. The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) which measures Integration policies across thirty one countries shows that Canada is ranked third best in the world and performs well in the implementation of immigrants and their integration into society.

However, there is no single systematic policy document which outlines the Hong Kong Government's integration policy towards immigrants. Various guidelines exist such as the 2004 Home Affairs Bureau document which outlines the Hong Kong Government's integration policy towards ethnic minorities and immigrants, in providing assistance, addressing problems of racial discrimination and promoting equal opportunities. Furthermore, in the 2010-11 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced that the Government would increased its collaboration with non-governmental organizations to step up efforts in facilitating the early integration of new arrivals into the community.

Additional policies targeted towards new mainland arrivals, such as the School-based Support Scheme grant have been introduced by the Education Bureau in support of integrating Mainland students. Recently, the Home Affairs Department has also set up a comprehensive "Service Handbook for New Arrivals" which provides adaptation and cultural courses, organized by local organizations that enable new arrivals to learn more about Hong Kong culture and society. Arguably though, whilst there are a number of targeted programmes in place, more needs to be done to facilitate the successful integration of mainlanders into Hong Kong society. Much of the responsibility of integration in Hong Kong lies currently with non-governmental organizations, such as the Society for Community Organization (SoCO.) NGO's such as SoCO provide support and advice to mainlanders who come to them, whilst championing issues of justice and social inequality in society.

Policy Strategy

It is imperative that a systematic integration policy framework towards mainland integration can be implemented, in order to ease the social and economic integration burdens that new mainland arrivals on the OWP experience. The proposed policy framework could be split into three components and comprise a series of pre-departure orientation and post immigration services, alongside workshops that embed cultural knowledge, language training in Cantonese, alongside labour market information. The scheme would specifically target those on the OWP scheme, who find it hardest to adapt to Hong Kong culture and society and be administered through a combination of NGO's and the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Such a scheme can provide a systematic policy framework, bringing Hong Kong into line with international frameworks and helping to contribute and foster an inclusive Hong Kong society.

A comprehensive intern report written by the author and based on this article will be published by Civic Exchange later this year.

[1] The Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong is currently undertaking a consultation on revising the four anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong. The author commends the EOC for undertaking this consultation.
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