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We don’t rent out to Indians: Racism in Hong Kong
Racism in Hong Kong is getting increasingly evident—fellow commuters avoiding sitting next to South Asians, and even taxi drivers evading Indian passengers. Yet we were shocked when a fellow reader sent us this tweet that has been flying across twitter-verse since last night. Landlords refusing Indian tenants is a concerning issue. However, it has never been spelt out so blatantly.
This was a SMS conversation between an Indian national looking to lease an apartment in Kennedy Town and an agent representing a well-known real estate agency in Hong Kong. We spoke to the tenant-to-be about the incident. He told us that he got in touch with the agent via SMS to inquire about apartments in Kennedy Town. The agent replied with a few options, from which he zeroed in on the apartment in question. The agent then messaged him that she would find out about the apartment and respond shortly. The tweeted SMS highlights the ensuing correspondence, where she mentioned that the landlord of the concerned unit ‘refuses renting to Indians’. In fact, the entire conversation took place via SMSes—the two didn’t meet or talk over the phone.
“When I saw that message I simply couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It’s unfortunate that something like this would happen even today. This essentially means missing out on opportunities because of perceptions or biases against where you come from. And to put that across so blatantly and casually is very surprising,” the Indian gentleman remarked.
He was quick to point out that the agent was helpful, and didn’t realise that she was being discriminatory.
Yet, surprised and annoyed, he took to social media to rant. In no time, his post got tweeted and re-tweeted, with many echoing similar sentiments, while others extending support by condemning it.
Whether it was the agent’s naivety to understand that relaying such information was racist and hurtful or her callousness towards racism itself is appalling. In fact, this incident shows that there is little or maybe no awareness regarding what constitutes race discrimination in Hong Kong. Moreover the fact that the landlord cited this reason to begin with is absolutely wrong. Even if he’s had a bad experience with an Indian tenant in the past, generalising it to the entire community is immoral, and incorrect.
Spread the word. Don’t turn a blind eye to racial discrimination. Shirking such incidents off as ‘common occurrences’ will only increase their prevalence. We can only eradicate this thought process and behaviour if people are reprimanded. #FightAgainstRacism.
Lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). According to Hong Kong’s Race Discrimination Ordinance:
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably on account of one of the prohibited grounds mentioned above, or when the same requirement is applied to all persons but is in practice discriminatory in its effect. Discrimination may arise in circumstances such as the following:
When a landlord refuses to rent his/her property or an estate agent refuses to provide service to a prospective tenant because he/she comes from a certain race or has a disability…] What You Should Know as a Real Estate Agent, Landlord, Tenant, or Home Buyer
To know your rights, contact Equal Opportunities Commission.