More support for ethnic minorities

October 27, 2019

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung

As a free and pluralistic society, Hong Kong embodies rationalism, inclusiveness, harmony and diversity. Such core values not only make the people of Hong Kong proud, but also serve as the cornerstone for maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. We should dearly cherish these characteristics as they are the result of the hard work of generations of Hong Kong people.


The population of ethnic minorities (EMs) has increased by about 70% over the past decade. Excluding some 390,000 foreign domestic helpers, the EM population now stands at about 263,000, making up about 3.8% of the whole population of Hong Kong. About 30% of them (about 80,000) are South Asians (including Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese). Like Hongkongers, generations of EMs have established their roots in Hong Kong with many of them born and bred here, calling the city their home.


EMs have largely achieved self-reliance through employment and their labour force participation rates (LFPR) are relatively high. The LFPR of male EMs is about 79.9% (which is higher than that of the overall male population of 69.7%), while the LFPR of female EMs is about 51.2% (which is on par with the overall female population. It is worth noting that female Nepalese maintains a high LFPR of 63.2%). As an important source of manpower supply for Hong Kong, their potential should not be overlooked.


The Government has all along been committed to building a caring and inclusive society and providing comprehensive support for EMs to facilitate their enjoyment of equal opportunities and integration into the community. The Steering Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs chaired by me endeavours to enhance cross-bureau and inter-departmental co-ordination in supporting EMs.


During the past few months, I met with different EM communities and visited EM centres to listen to their views. Among them, students and youths expressed to me their difficulties in learning Chinese and concern over their career prospects.


In the various initiatives implemented by the Government to provide support to EMs, many of them were conceived from suggestions from EMs. Our bottom-up approach in encompassing stakeholders’ views in policy formulation is a good example of our new proactive approach and down-to-earth response in addressing our people’s needs. Our measures to support EMs in this year’s Policy Address include:


  • To help schools implement the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework and build an inclusive campus, starting from the 2020-21 school year, all schools admitting non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students will be provided with additional funding. Those schools admitting a relatively small number of NCS students (i.e. ordinary schools admitting less than 10 NCS students and special schools admitting less than six NCS students) will be provided with a new two-tiered subsidy with additional funding, the amount of which will increase from the current level of $50,000 to $150,000 or $300,000. It is estimated that about 400 eligible schools will benefit in the 2020-21 school year;
  • The Education Bureau (EDB) will continue to provide teacher professional development programmes, school-based professional support services, and learning and teaching resources, etc., and will also explore how to gauge the progress of NCS students in learning the Chinese language through longitudinal studies;
  • Starting from the 2020-21 school year, the EDB will commission tertiary institutions or non-governmental organisations to offer parent education programmes specially designed for parents of NCS students to help them support their children’s learning and understand the multiple pathways available to their children;
  • An Ethnic Minority District Ambassador pilot scheme will be launched in nine districts with higher EM population in 2020-21. A total of 46 EM service ambassadors will be recruited to enhance EM services provided by district centres/service units as well as to provide more employment opportunities for EMs;
  • Arrange translation and production of more publicity and educational materials in EM languages to enable EMs to make better use of the services offered by the Department of Health, and enhance the effectiveness of health education on communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases and mental health, etc.; and
  • The disciplined services will enhance their recruitment and outreaching work to encourage EMs to join the services and will, through school outreaching and Junior Police Call activities, have more interaction with EM children and adolescents.

At the same time, out of the comprehensive package of measures announced by the Government last year to enhance support for EMs (which involved an expenditure of over $500 million and covered initiatives in education, employment, social welfare and social integration), many of the measures have been implemented or will be rolled out progressively. They are expected to yield considerable results (Table 1).


To sustain the development of Hong Kong and improve people’s livelihood, we must put our heads together. Let us work hand in hand with EMs in Hong Kong to build a harmonious and inclusive society.


Support Measures for Ethnic Minorities (Table 1)

Policy Area



  • Enhance the subsidy for kindergartens admitting non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students;
  • Continue to commission tertiary institutions to provide professional support services for schools on Chinese language learning and teaching of NCS students;
  • Provide additional funding support for public sector mainstream schools admitting NCS students with special educational needs; and
  • Support NCS students in their learning of Chinese History.

(Resources to be spent in the four financial years starting from 2019-20: about $294.4 million)

Support for Employment

  • Enhance the manpower of the Labour Department to launch a pilot programme in conjunction with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide employment services for EM job seekers through a case management approach;
  • The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) has completed a comprehensive review on the Chinese language proficiency requirements (LPRs) for all civil service grades, with an increase in the number of grades that have lowered/ ill lower such requirements by 22 to a total of 53. The CSB will remind Heads of Departments/ Head of Grades to regularly review the Chinese LPRs of grades under their purview to ensure that such requirements are relevant to and commensurate with satisfactory performance of the job.
  • The Employees Retraining Board has expanded the Chinese language courses and designated industry-specific training courses and allows more flexibility in student enrolment;
  • Enhance recruitment and outreaching efforts to encourage EMs to consider a career in the disciplined services; and
  • More than 10 students have completed their internship in the Government’s short-term internship programme for non-ethnic Chinese (NEC) university students this summer at a monthly allowance of $10,500. The CSB will review the programme and consider increasing the number of internship places and inviting nomination of more NEC university students to participate in the programme.

(Resources to be spent in the four financial years starting from 2019-20: about $30.1 million)

Social Welfare

  • Commission NGOs to set up designated outreaching teams to proactively reach out to and connect EMs in need to mainstream welfare services;
  • Strengthen prevention and support services for EMs against domestic and sexual violence;
  • Set up specialised EM units in five parents/relatives resources centres for persons with disabilities; and
  • Provide additional subsidy for special child care centres and early education and training centres with pre-school EM children with special needs admitted.

(Resources to be spent in the four financial years starting from 2019-20: about $129.3 million)

Promote Cultural Sensitivity and Social Integration

  • The Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau will improve the Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality by 2019 for application to all government bureaus and departments and related organisations providing services for EMs;
  • The Civil Service Training & Development Institute has provided more cultural sensitivity/equal opportunities training for civil service new recruits and front-line staff;
  • The Home Affairs Department (HAD) has enhanced the translation services in the CHEER Centre and introduced new translation service in Vietnamese;
  • The HAD has implemented the District-based Programmes for Racial Harmony since August this year to encourage interaction and exchange between the EM and local communities;
  • Enhanced services of the support service centres for EMs have been introduced; and
  • More activities have been organised by the disciplined services to strengthen engagement with EM adolescents.

(Resources to be spent in the four financial years starting from 2019-20: about $154.7 million)


Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung wrote this article and posted it on his blog on October 27.

Back to top