Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Hong Kong Unison


Hong Kong is home to many ethnic minority people (non-Chinese), mainly from South or Southeast Asia (e.g. Pakistan, India, Nepal, Philippines or Indonesia). There is no consistent policy and guidance for ethnic minority students in Hong Kong. Unlike the policy designed to help mainland Chinese students and disabled students adapt and integrate into the education system, the Hong Kong government still lacks a conceptual model for educating and integrating minority students- even though they are the 3rd or 4th generation in their families who are living in Hong Kong. The main issues for ethnic minority young people include: 1) Limited choice of schools: Over 60% of ethnic minority students are concentrated in about 10 public schools (some proposed for work under this grant). Students from these schools are therefore generally disconnected from mainstream society and lack interaction with Hong Kong Chinese students. Racial segregation brings long-term harmful effects. 2) Relatively low quality of education in the available educational institutions, also with lower standards compared to mainstream schools. 3) Shortage of opportunities to learn Cantonese and written Chinese to compete effectively with their Chinese counterparts.

Hong Kong’s ethnic minority population is generally from the lower socio-economic strata, and face a huge range of issues, including discrimination, limited social mobility or language barriers as mentioned above, resulting in lower educational attainment or inequalities in accessing future job opportunities. Repercussions related to poverty and discrimination affect all young people in Hong Kong at their key developmental stages, but especially ethnic minority children/young people who are growing up in an environment of systematic discrimination in their daily life at school. The education system has, therefore, a major role to play to help these disadvantaged youth overcome different barriers sat various levels. However, education goes both ways, it is important to educate/support ethnic minorities, but Hong Kong society in general also needs to be educated about these racial issues. Whilst ethnic minority youth in Hong Kong has a strong Hong Kong identity, at the time of the handover in 1997, the Chinese government did not wise to offer ethnic minority citizens Chinese citizenship as they did for all Hong Kong citizens of Chinese descent. On the other side, the departing British administration did not wish to provide them with British citizenship. Thus, ethnic minorities were left to reclaim the citizenship of their parents’ or even grandparents’ original nationality and to be labeled as ‘Permanent Residents’ without local citizenship status in Hong Kong. Most ethnic minority youth (and their parents) are aware of the tensions in their status as people whose citizenship are outside of Hong Kong, but whose lives are integrated into the life of the city. Most of them (have to) put up with racism in some cases, rejection by the local Chinese community, this does not promote healthy and positive development for youth. Owing to the undesirable environment, these youth generally maintain low aspirations to become successful with a strong sense of hopelessness. The current situation- where ethnic minority young people have limited access to opportunities for personal development and are often overlooked by teachers, family members, and society- seriously impedes their employment and social mobility, and perpetuates the poverty cycle (poverty rate of South Asians or ethnic minorities: 25.7%, whole HK population: 19%)


Hong Kong Unison (HK Unison) is a non-governmental organization founded in 2001 focusing its work on ethnic minority Hong Kong residents and their families. HK Unison was founded by Ms. Fermi Wong, a registered social worker in Hong Kong. Back in the early 2000s, she encountered ethnic minority youth on the streets during school hours, when later she realized that they did not have places in schools due to discriminatory admission policies. Since then, she has stood up for ethnic minorities. In 2012, she was awarded the Hong Kong Humanity Award in recognition of her commitment to serve the vulnerable. Hong Kong Unison works in two directions: 1. Policy advocacy work (e.g. advocating for better Chinese language education policies for ethnic minorities, expanding ethnic minority students’ post-secondary options in education, fighting for equal access to public services), and 2. Implementation of programs, such as organizing career guidance programs for ethnic minority students, providing scholarships for ethnic minority students (currently 25) who wish to continue their education or promoting activities for racial harmony and cultural sensitivity in schools. HK Unison strives to support the HK ethnic minority community to better integrate into mainstream society and give them full and equal access to rights and services as any HK resident is entitled to.

Current Grant

EMpower’s 2nd grant to Hong Kong Unison will support ethnic minority students to aspire to achievable life and career goals aligned to their interests. 500 students will receive regular life planning and career guidance talks and workshops at their schools. 150 students will sharpen their interview skills via mock interviews, and participate in diverse workplace visits on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. 30 students will receive one-on-one counseling and participate in tailor-made workshops to cater to their specific career/life planning needs. In addition, a women’s leadership and capacity building mentorship program will be conducted for 10 recipients of Unison’s scholarship program.

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