By Yusuf Mohideen
The portrayal of the Ethnic-minority (“EM”) community in a SCMP-article regarding the latest outbreak has led to discussions on systemic prejudices against EMs in HK. The EM’s backlash stems from SCMP’s ways of framing EMs that reinforces existing stereotypes that: EMs are unhygienic/don’t take necessary health-precautions even though this could apply to any race.
The media reported a viral cluster in subdivided flats, directly linking it to EMs, even though the previous clusters e.g “dance-club Tai Tais” are reported without mentioning their racial backgrounds. The viral cluster in these subdivided flats reflects issues of cramped housing-systems, poor water drainage facilities which results in overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. All of which are irrespective of someone’s inherent race. This has unfairly led to the lockdown of Yau Tsim Mong district, affecting people for the actions of the upper-class Tai Tais who face no repercussions for their dance club scene. Raymond Ho, Head of health promotion branch at the centre for health protection, said in last monday’s press conference, “They “(ethnic minorities)” like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together. If it is without masks, the risk is high”.
From what I recall, I thought everyone, regardless of race, took off their masks to drink & eat? Also, are EMs the only racial group that eat with their masks off in public? I think not. We can see from this how SCMP selectively targets and scapegoats EMs in a way which falsely paints a picture to the public that they’re at blame for the latest viral cluster. This is how SCMP perpetuates racial prejudices by using their power to sensationalize EM’s in a biased, negative light. Media influences behaviour, thoughts and conceptions of certain topics, let alone people. So if SCMP phrases their article in a way that portrays all ethnic minorities (specifically south asians) as one big contributor to the 4th wave, then we can only imagine the repercussions that it brings in hindering the social inclusivity of HK.
Might we all be reminded where COVID-19 originated from and how some uncivilized US-citizens attacked asian-looking people because of this? This is how blame shifts towards a minority group that’s economically-powerless (1 in 4 EMs live in poverty), making them an easy victim-group for SCMP’s finger-blaming game. What are the long-term ripple effects of this one article? Singling EMs out further damages the locals’ perception towards us as this feeds into microaggression towards EMs e.g requesting to not have south-asian deliverers, nepali workers sent home despite their chinese counterparts working or when an EM lady was sprayed with disinfectant by her coworker the day after the article. Generalizing a race to be the cause of the outbreak results in ‘social segregation’ where assumptions lead to worsening racial inclusivity in HK by grouping an entire race. How would the public react to this? With paranoia. Fear breeds hatred and SCMP has directed that fear element towards the EM community and has made the public use those stereotypes to further draw a racial division between us through microaggressive acts.
This is not new, considering how SCMP has recurring racial themes that targets and groups EMs for acts that are irrespective of race e.g ‘HK police crackdown on south asian hangouts’ or ‘nepali asylum seeker gets two months in jail for stealing rice packets’. The diction along with the phrasing of these incidents incite for racial injustices being normalized due to the power that the media has over the people. Scmp, being THE most popular newspaper company had prompted other ones e.g Apple DailyHK to post their own scandalous video of doing a tally count on how many south asians were seen without a mask. This again, reaches a larger audience as other media channels incite this viral craze of adopting mainstream stereotypes.
Beyond all the subtle violences and prejudices that incite hate towards the EM community, we cannot deny the possibility of going through racial trauma which manifests through constant hate crimes/harassment/racial microaggressions etc. regardless of how small or big of an issue it is, they’re consistent. That consistency is what brings up feelings of patriotic disassociation, where we EMs study to leave HK, where the futures we imagine for ourselves and our kids, lay in another place, where we seek for the potential of what HK could be rather than what it is even though we desperately want to integrate. Dismantling so many barriers and systemic injustices is a tiring ordeal for many EMs but we love HK nevertheless. This is our home. We were born here, educated here, had so many experiences here. This land has given us the freedom from our parents’ hardships from their motherlands yet here we are, witnessing more and more injustices being justified through the media. Which is why we demand an apology from Raymond Ho, the Chief Executive, SCMP and Apple Daily news for demonizing EMs by using a biased dangerous narrative to characterize us.