Monday, March 26, 2007

Xenophobia in Thailand on the Rise

Famed Thai hospitality shows signs of strain

BANGKOK: Long one of the most open and accommodating destinations for tourists and businesspeople in Asia, the well-advertised "land of smiles" is showing signs of a subtle frown directed toward foreigners.

Over the past seven months, successive Thai governments have passed measures scrutinizing land purchases by non-Thais and clamping down on long-stay retirees and expatriate workers who lack proper visas. In January, the cabinet passed a sweeping bill that tightens restrictions on foreign companies, a measure that awaits final approval.

"There's been a trend that suggests rising economic nationalism," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University. Thailand, he said, has fallen into a "very complex mood of ambivalence" toward outsiders under the military-led government that seized power last September.

That mood is evident in a 12th-floor conference room at the headquarters of Bangkok Bank, where Vongthip Chumpani, an adviser and former vice president at the bank, expresses her frustrations about certain types of foreigners who come to Thailand — and tend to stay.

"We are getting a lot of weird retirees here," Vongthip said. "They can't survive in your country so they come here."

Thailand needs to slow down and catch its breath, she said. Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in September, had entered into a flurry of free-trade agreements with Australia, China, Japan, the United States and others. To Vongthip's thinking, he tried to pry the country open too quickly.

"We bent over backward all the time to accommodate foreign investors," she said.

That could be changing.

Under proposed new rules for foreign investors, companies such as Federal Express might have to give up control of their operations in Thailand. Car and electronics manufacturers could be barred from delivering their cars or disk drives to ports for export; only Thai-owned companies would be allowed to transport items within the country.

Retail chains — big ones like Carrefour and hundreds of smaller ones — could be frozen out of future expansion. Land purchases by thousands of foreigners could be declared illegal.

These amendments to the Foreign Business Act were approved by the Thai cabinet in January and are now under review by the Council of State, an independent government body of legal experts.

Since the very first boatloads of Portuguese and Dutch emissaries arrived here five centuries ago, Thailand has had a knack for dealing with foreigners: trade but not domination, hospitality but not subservience. Thais successfully gleaned technology from Europeans, Americans and Japanese, and the elite sent their children to study abroad. Unlike all of its neighbors, Thailand was never colonized.

But this was before millions of tourists poured into the country's spas, beaches, golf courses and restaurants — not to mention red-light districts and massage parlors. The number of tourists visiting Thailand, whose population is 64 million, is expected to reach nearly 15 million this year, a doubling over the past decade.

On the southern resort island of Phuket, roadside billboards, written in English, advertise million-dollar condominiums — this in a country where a schoolteacher is lucky to bring home a few hundred dollars a month. In northeastern Thailand, men from Germany, Switzerland, Britain and other Western countries live with their Thai wives on neatly groomed streets that stand out from ramshackle neighboring villages.

"I've seen so many old farangs with young Thai women," said Nattaya Rattanamanee, 31, an accountant working at a hotel on the resort island of Samui, using the Thai word for Westerners. "These old farangs damage the reputation of Thailand; they turn Thailand into a land of prostitutes."

Feeling the strain of the tourist influx, the Thai government recently announced a new approach: the country would no longer focus on the quantity of tourists, but instead target "quality" — read "wealthy" — tourists.

"In years past we've always targeted numbers: trying to achieve the highest numbers of arrivals possible," said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, a spokesman for the Tourism Authority of Thailand. "It's time to change. If we continue to focus mainly on numbers, some destinations will not be able to handle that many people."

Any resentment that Thais may harbor toward foreigners is unlikely to be felt by short-term vacationers. It is hidden behind an often genuine Thai smile and shielded by a wall of politeness. There is no generalized backlash against foreigners, Thais say, but rather concerns about specific problems: criminals who come to Thailand on the lam, the increase in land purchases by foreigners and foreign companies having too much influence in the economy.

In September, just before the coup, the head of the country's immigration department announced that foreign tourists would be limited to staying in Thailand for 90 days within any six- month period. This was primarily aimed at foreign retirees who take up permanent residence without proper paperwork and the thousands of people working here without work visas.

One such person was John Mark Karr, the American who falsely confessed to the 1996 killing of JonBenet Ramsey, a Colorado schoolgirl, and was living in Bangkok as an English teacher. Karr's apprehension last August in Bangkok buttressed Thailand's image as a magnet for creeps and perverts.

"I hate them. There are so many of those in Thailand," said Yupa Boontaworn, a 22-year-old university student, when asked about people like Karr. Tourism is good for the Thai economy, she said, but the government should move more aggressively against pedophiles and sex tourists.

As a tourist destination, Thailand shares much in common with the Netherlands: a hands-off government and the veneer of a tolerant society, but a surprisingly conservative core. In some ways, anti-foreign feelings in Thailand arise from the clash between the permissive Thailand of skimpily clad bar girls twirling around poles and the more traditional side of the country, where women are too shy even to wear a swimsuit on a beach. Today, that veneer of tolerance, while still intact, is chipping.

"Foreigners shouldn't be able to do anything they please in Thailand," said Samree Ardsuan, 68, a retired civil servant. If someone led a demonstration protesting foreign ownership of companies, Samree said, he would definitely join in.

With a few exceptions such as condominiums and small plots, foreigners are barred from owning property in Thailand. But many have skirted these laws by registering shell companies, a practice that the government now promises to stop.

The mood toward foreigners today, analysts say, is a corollary to Thailand's political crisis. Many Thais became defensive when foreign governments criticized the coup in September as undemocratic, and today there are occasional nationalist outbursts. In February, the head of the military junta, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, vowed to retake stakes in a satellite company that Thaksin's family sold to a Singapore government agency last year.

The Thai government says the proposed amendments to the Foreign Business Act are long overdue clarifications. But to some Thais, including Vongthip of Bangkok Bank, the law would also help redress what is seen here as the injustices that accompanied the financial crisis of the late 1990s, when indebted Thai companies were forced to sell their assets cheaply to foreigners. Foreign banks and companies, Vongthip said, "picked up everything for a song."

Many questions about the amendments remain. Analysts say there could be less pressure for a new law since one of the more nationalist members of the Thai cabinet, Pridiyathorn Devakula, stepped down as finance minister in February.

The legal committee also appears to be casting a skeptical eye on the proposed new law. "The majority of the committee is not sure that the law needs to be amended," Pakorn Nilprapan, the committee's secretary, said this month. "We are seeking explanations from the Ministry of Commerce."

Even if the amendments do become law, many here predict that the law's harshest provisions will be quietly forgotten.

"I don't think it's going to be enforced — it's just not the Thai way," said David Lyman, chairman of Tilleke & Gibbons, a prominent Bangkok law firm.

Lyman, who first moved to Thailand in 1949, says he has seen this all before: the government has threatened to restrict foreign ownership on and off for nearly four decades.

"Reason usually ends up prevailing in Thailand — after all other options have been exhausted," Lyman said.

Pornnapa Wongakanit contributed reporting from Bangkok.

Being Black in Korea

Korea is back in focus with an excellent blog (complete with audio) on the subject of racial prejudices in one of Asia's leading economies. The blog can be found here

A fantastic extended piece on how Koreans respond to criticism of their and country can be found on the same blog here
Indeed replace the word "Korean" with "Asian" and you'd have a fairly good description of of how most racist Asian respond to critiques of their behavior and prejudice.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Racism in Japan

Taken from:

This article once again shows that Racism is not only the domain of white-supremacists or delusional african despots. The reaction was swift and it is pleasing that the publication was pulled but one wonders if such articles would ever appear in main-stream news agencies or news stands in western countries. Food for thought.

JAPAN: 'Racist' magazine pulled off shelves after complaints

FamilyMart Co withdraws copies of Secret Foreigner Crime Files after sparking criticism on Internet forums, blogs

Straits Times
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tokyo --- Japan's third-largest convenience store chain yesterday pulled a magazine on crimes committed by foreigners from its shelves, citing the publication's "inappropriate racial expressions."

FamilyMart Co withdrew copies of Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (Secret Foreigner Crime Files) after receiving at least 10 complaints from customers since Saturday, spokesman Takehiko Kigure said yesterday.

About 1,000 copies of the magazine, which costs 690 yen (S$8.80), had been sold by the company's 7,500 stores in Japan by the time the publication was removed.

"We decided to remove it from our shelves because inappropriate racial expressions were found in the magazine," Mr Kigure said.

Crimes committed by foreigners in Japan are often cited by right-wing groups and politicians to justify demands for tighter immigration policies.

Others like Mr Hidenori Sakanaka, the former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, say Japan needs to encourage more immigrants to compensate for a decline in its population if it wants to maintain its economic power.

Japan's crime rate is one of the world's lowest. According to the latest government statistics, there were 1,776 reported crimes per 100,000 people in 2005. Offences by foreigners rose to record 47,865 that year from 47,128 in 2004, police statistics show.

The magazine, published on Jan 31 by Tokyo-based Eichi Publishing, contains images and descriptions of what the magazine says are crimes committed in Japan by non-Japanese, including graphs breaking down crimes by nationality.

Its cover, in red and black, shows caricatured images of foreigners grinning maniacally with glowing red eyes under its banner headline.

The magazine sparked anger on Japanese blogs and other Internet forums.

Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese citizen and author of Japanese Only blog, posted a bilingual letter for readers to take to FamilyMart stores to protest against "discriminatory statements and images about non-Japanese residents of Japan."

Another blog, Japan Probe, asked readers to check that FamilyMart is complying with its pledge to remove the publication.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Childrens Assumptions

There is an interesting thread on a singapore-based expat forum that touches on the subject of inherited assumptions related (potentially) to racism.

The link is:

I have also included a copy below in case the thread is deleted in the future:

Author Topic: this young???????
this young?
posted 21-03-2007 12:40 PM Edit/Delete Message
hi all,

i really do not wish to create flames here or am welcoming any rude postings in reply but im a bit shocked at what happened today. first ill start by saying i like singapore,we have been here since september and ive had no problems before........ my daughter goes to a local school. k1(kindergarten 1) shes starting her 2nd term there now and she really likes it.shes learning chinese, likes her teacher, etc we are happy with the school.she tryed a international montessori before but she prefers this school much more.and i can not afford the high international school fees of other schools.anyways,a lot of the girls,my daughter included bring stickers to school and share and exchange them with other girls. today a girl brought pencils and gave one to everyone in the class except my daughter. my daughter asked nicely if she could have one and the girl said "NO ONLY CHILDREN WITH BLACK HAIR CAN HAVE ONE, YOU DONT LOOK LIKE US, SO CANT HAVE ONE" all other children got one, boys also.just not my daughter.she said she wishes she had black hair so she could have a pencil too.appartently the teacher was at the door talking to another teacher at the time this happened so she missed in shock that this is starting soooo young?they are 4 year olds???????????ive heard many positive things about local schools and all children being excepted and treated like a local.has anyone had this type of thing happen before?any advice? talk to the teacher?

please no flames here. im feeling bad enough as it is....

IP: Logged

one more expat
posted 21-03-2007 12:57 PM Edit/Delete Message
I'm sorry to hear this happened to your daughter, especially at this age. With her going to a local school, she would most likely stand out, especially if her hair isn't black. You may want to bring this up with the teacher, to see if this has happened previously. Unfortunately, these things will happen at school, and is most certainly a prelude to life itself. This would be a good time to have a chat with your daughter, and explain to her that even though we all have different colored hair, we're all the same. Maybe a little hard to take at her age, but believe me, they do understand more than you think. Good luck!

IP: Logged

posted 21-03-2007 01:39 PM Edit/Delete Message
I woudn't make a big deal of it as kids can be just a bit weird at this age and come up with all sorts of strange ideas. I would speak to the teacher though to alert her to what has happened and maybe she can speak to the class about accepting differences in people and about being nice to all in a non-accusing way.

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Don't Sweat It
posted 21-03-2007 02:08 PM Edit/Delete Message
Four years' old is about where it starts. My son who is half Asian was in a very "white" school in the US. In 1st grade he came home one day and basically said, "I hate Tommy!'

"Why do you hate Tommy."
"He is stupid. He called me China boy."
"That wasn't very nice."
"Yeah. And he's stupid because I am from the Philipines not China."

We laughed about it and I told him to ignore stupid comments.

Maybe your daughter should bring something in too. Share with everyone including the stupid girl. She can make a big deal about it, "I want you to know that even though you hurt my feelings I want to be your friend so I am giving you one too."

Bridges can be built from both sides of a river. Just ask Singapore and Malaysia - LOL

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to op
posted 21-03-2007 02:24 PM Edit/Delete Message
my son went to local montessori for 1 1/2years, may i say, i was pleased the day he started an international school. he got similar treatment to your daughter, basically all the kids were excluding him from anything and everything, just beacuse he was different. i know pple will say it can`t be at that early age, but trust me it can.i know exactly what you are talking about. my advise is get your daughter out of there asap .... by the time he left he was turning into little robot!! he is very happy at his new school, he is in reception now. we are happy to see him enjoying the school and be happy!!!

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posted 21-03-2007 04:15 PM Edit/Delete Message
i have to disagree with "to OP" if you take her out over this incident you will be teaching her its ok to runaway from problems. i like "dont sweat it"'s solution. as the saying goes more flies are cought with honey than with vinegar! do speak to the teacher, hopefully she can nip this in the bud.

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miss butterfly
posted 21-03-2007 07:12 PM Edit/Delete Message
no it cant. thisis something minorities have to learn to live with. the best she can do is make an extra effort and hope to make some friends.
this is a board for adults and how many times have you seen them wail petulantly: this is an expat board, why are locals posting here?
it never stops. at any age.
as toyour question of 'this young'. what did you think? four year olds are blind and cant see that boys and girls are different or chinese, indians and whites and blacks are different? grow up.

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this young?
posted 21-03-2007 07:40 PM Edit/Delete Message
to miss butterfly....PLEASE FLY AWAY!

to everyone else, thank you very much for your support. i will talk to the teacher and have the talk with my daughter and suggest she offer this girl a sticker as suggested.i really appreciate being able to come on here and find understanding ears.

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If it was me
posted 21-03-2007 08:23 PM Edit/Delete Message
I think miss butterfly made a couple of valid points until the end paragraph spoilt it! We ARE minorities here and it has probably been the same for kids coming over to our countries to live in the past (and present!) and they have simply had to put up with it because there is probably no other school for them to go to.

The way you word it in your opening post makes it sound very much like it is just one girl who is responsible for this.

If this is the case, then I would speak to the teacher about it but not get the teacher to draw the attention of the whole class by having a talk about how we are all different. I would ask the teacher to take this girl aside, with or without the girl's parents (depending on how you and the teacher choose to treat the incident) and have a serious word with her.

The way children are is sometimes (not always, but sometimes) because it is the way their parents are. If the parents are involved, they will either be humbled that they've been rumbled, or they'll be mortified that their child is saying things like this and sort it out.

Either way, the teacher definitely needs to know.

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this young?
posted 21-03-2007 08:42 PM Edit/Delete Message
i totally agree and you brought this into a different light i hadnt even thought of. im assuming it was 1 girl but this was told to me by my 4 year old so i may have a bit of the story wrong.

i also think madam butterfly is right on some accounts but the fact is shes telling me nothing i dont already know! im already very aware of the realities of life. i lived in switzerland and got mocked big time for my german and for the fact that im american. im a big girl and am used to it. just thought preschool it was a bit young to start this. maybe it is and with the teachers help we can stop it for a few more years anyways?

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Don't Sweat It
posted 21-03-2007 08:53 PM Edit/Delete Message
Please make sure you place the responsibilities correctly.

Behavior - In school the children's behavior is the responsibility of the teachers and the principals. No hitting, no spitting, no hair pulling etc. are all behaviors. Sharing at school is an optional endeavor and excluding kids is a form of bullying or harrassment - the test is that it can interfere with learning. The school has the option to ban all "group" sharing in class if it is deemed as disruptive.

Beliefs - If I believe a minority is inferior then I learned it from a parent or a peer. Trying to change people's beliefs is impossible. This child's parents may be racists - who knows? Who cares? You can't fix it. The parents don't realize that the world is multicultural and if their kid doesn't learn to tolerate and mix she will likely be unsuccessful in life.

Demonstrating racist behaviors is not tolerated in civilized societies.

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to de above poster
posted 21-03-2007 09:02 PM Edit/Delete Message
very well said!!! in our condo lots of local kids, strangly none of them want to play with expat kids, my son tried to make friends with them on a numerous occasins but was just turned down, ignored, i told him not to bother anymore. i know it seems harsh from my side , but what else to do!!?? luckily there are lot of other kids there so he doesn`t even notice...

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I tell you
posted 21-03-2007 09:57 PM Edit/Delete Message
Geez Louise i can tell you.If i did not know how harsh the world was before, I do now by visiting this site.Everday theres a rude person on here to read us our rights.Miss Butterfly is only 1 of many examples of bullying going on here amongst adults.

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yes this young
posted 22-03-2007 08:48 AM Edit/Delete Message

I'm sorry your child went through this but this is fairly common here. I agee with many of the previous posters that the behaviour is probably learnt at home.

Where i disagree is that beliefs cannot be changed. I suggest you talk to the teacher. Don't make it about racism etc YET - just tell it how it happened and let the teacher fill in the blanks. Make it about the exclusion and not about the hair colour comment. If the teacher has a brain, she will connect the dots.

Make sure you follow up in writing - again focus on the exclusion but make sure a mention of the hair colour comment is included.

If this continues and the 'softly softly' approach fails to work you will wind up with a written (always helpful) record of the incidents involving this child where the exclusion has been based on a physical trait and you can then use this to demonstrate the racist element of the behaviour.

But i'd only do that as a last resort. I've found through bitter experience that racism is often ignored, not believed or accepted here by the local population UNLESS it happens to them.

My children also have had numerous bad experiences over the last 5 years where they either tired to play with local kids in the condo and were turned down (they took that OK) or WERE playing with the kids and had the parents come up and tell the children (in Mandarin, which my children speak) "leave the foreign kids alone - they are nasty trouble" - that was NOT ok and caused tears.

It's just the way of the world but you can change the world, one mind at a time.

All the best.

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MOE slave
posted 22-03-2007 09:48 AM Edit/Delete Message
My kids were in a local school for nearly two years. I was really shocked at how deeply the assumption that everyone is Chinese goes in the education system here.

The longer I live here, the more I realise that there is an overwhelming assumption everywhere that people are Chinese. Yes, I know that the majority of people here are, but this majority is only about 75-80%, not 99%. It's just amazing the way that race is used and rehashed as a way to generalise and marginalise very single day.

I could not understand why my children (who are caucasian and have light brown hair and brown/blue eyes repsectively) would colour all their artwork so the people had black hair, black eyes and yellow skin (sorry about how crude that sounds, but it really was coloured that way - every time). I pointed out to the teachers that this was strange considering the number of Indian, mixed-race and the caucasian kids that were enrolled there that all the artwork was identical and Chinese. Then I saw the "example" picture (ie: the kids were told how to colour their work)...

I have taught kids whose parents have told me (without blinking) that they do not want their children sitting in class next to the Malay kids. After picking my eyeballs up and trying my best to be professional, I calmly asked why that was. "Malay's do not work hard like Chinese. They don't value education and only want to play the fool. I don't want my kids being influenced by that." This attitude was NOT a once-off. The truly shocking part? My local colleagues had moved the seats of my student's siblings.

It's very disheartening because it is always assumed that as an Ang Moh, I'm naive and have no idea what it's like to live in a multi-cultural society. I have put my kids into an international school.

IP: Logged

helping hand
posted 22-03-2007 10:50 AM Edit/Delete Message
welcome to singapore! I suggest you check out:

IP: Logged

All times are SG

Monday, March 19, 2007

More on Malaysian Racism pt3

Another two articles on racism in Malaysia can be found here:

Again the focus is on discrimination against non-malays at a governmental level and the intersection with some radical religious elements and the role in which the the ruling party in the complex web of inter-ethnic and religious relations.

More on Malaysian Racism pt2

This article from discusses the intersection of racism, religion and politics in Malaysia today. The focus is again on racist government policies to advance the majority ethnic group with attention to the religious aspects as well.

Adrian Morgan examines how the racial and religious policies of Malaysia's UMNO party are leading the country into meltdown

HishKeris.jpgOn Wednesday November 15 the ruling party in Malaysia, UMNO ((United Malays National Organization), began its 57th three-day-long annual conference at the Putra Center, Kuala Lumpur. Issues brought up at the conference served to reinforce the racial apartheid which has been a bedrock of Malaysia's politics since its independence from Britain on August 31, 1957.

UMNO was founded on May 11, 1946. Its core belief is that of the "ketuanan Melayu" an ideology which states that the Malay people, who are all regarded as "Muslim" are the original and defining populace of Malaya, and thus should have special status and privileges. This is in defiance of logic, as native peoples, the "Orang Asli", have lived in the peninsula of Western Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan State, long before the Malay Muslims arrived in the 14th century.

UMNO cannot rule on its own. Despite its bias towards Malays and Islam, it has to share power in a coalition, called the Barisan Nasional or "National Front". This includes the MIC, the Malaysia Indian Congress, which has been in existence since 1946, and also MCA, the Malaysian Chinese Association, which has been the second largest partner in the Barisan Nasional coalition since 1996. There are ten other smaller parties in the Barisan Nasional (BN).

UMNO has ruled uninterrupted since independence, in association with other parties. Any political problems which beset Malaysia can therefore be laid at the door of UMNO.

Demographically, Malays comprise 50.8% of the population of 26 million, followed by Chinese 23.8%, Indigenous 10.9%, Indian 7.1%, and non-Malaysian citizens 6.8 %. In religious terms, 60% of the population is Muslim, with Buddhists comprising 19.2%, Christians 9.1%, Hindus 6.3%, and Confucians (Taoists) 2.6%. The other faiths comprise only 2.8% of the demographic.

Because of the bizarre apartheid of Malaysia, all citizens are given an identity card, called MyKad, at the age of 12. This card states the holder's race and religious status, details which are then held at the National Registration Department (NRD). All Malays are automatically classed as Muslims.

No Muslim is legally allowed to convert from Islam. The Islamic courts (Syariah Courts) control issues such as apostasy and issues of marriage and other issues. The NRD will not allow recognition of a person's conversion out of Islam, unless such a process has been authorized by the Syariah Courts. And so far, these courts have refused to allow any Muslims to apostasize.

Famous converts such as Lina Joy and Kamariah Ali are still battling with the courts for their rights to be acknowledged as "non-Muslims". Such rights do not exist in Malaysia. Article 11 of the country's constitution states that anyone can follow any religion of their choosing. However in 1988, an amendment (1A) was made to Article 121, which stated that the civil courts have no no jurisdiction over "any matter" which falls under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Courts.

The 13 states of Malaysia have mostly adopted the Control and Restriction Bill, which gives a fine of 10,000 ringit ($2,653) or imprisonment for up to one year for "persuading, influencing a Muslim to leave Islam for another religion." On August 23, a week before independence, Mohamed Nazri Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, ordered that the "constitutional law" which forbids others to spread religions other than Islam to the Muslims must be streamlined nationwide.

Aziz said that the states of Sarawak, Sabah, Federal Territory and Penang had not yet adopted the legislation, saying: "There is no reason for these states to delay adopting the law. The Federal Constitution must be fully adhered to but religion is a state matter which is under the purview of the respective state governments. Therefore, to enforce the Federal Constitution on religion would require all the government of the states to amend their constitutions and adopt the law first." He added: "Why (do we have) to interpret (the constitution) when it is clearly said that (non-Muslims) are not allowed to spread religions other than Islam to the Muslims?"

In March, Aziz had said that anyone who criticised Islam would be tried under the Sedition Act, a legacy of British colonial rule, which existed in Malaysia before its independence in 1957. The penalty for transgressing against the Sedition Act can be three years in prison, with an additional fine of up to 5,000 ringit or $1,350.

Article 3(1) of the constitution states that "other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation". For those of other religions, there is little sense of harmony, and many feel under attack both from politicians and Islamists.

On August 26, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is head of UMNO and also is Minister of Internal Security said people should not even question the contradictions of the constitution. "My advice to everyone is to stop (raising such issues). Do not create a situation that can lead to difficulties. Difficulties will make everyone apprehensive," he said.

Badawi continued: "Adhering to the articles will not create any problem. Discussing these articles again.... this will cause a storm if left unchecked. I have stated that there is no necessity to amend Article 121 ... there is no necessity to amend Article 11. These cause problems between one side and the other." Badawi condemned the Article 11 Forum, a multi-faith grouping of eleven organizations, which had campaigned to change the Islamo-supremacist aspects of the constitution.

The issue of UMNO's adherence to the apartheid ideology of "ketuanan Melayu", despite its union with the Chinese MCA and the Hindu MIC, were bound to be exploited in its 57th annual conference.

The elderly head of the Youth Movement of UMNO (ABIM) made the biggest gesture of racial/religious supremacy. Last year, he waved a ceremonial sword, or keris at the conference. And this year he did the same (pictured). On the eve of the conference, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein pledged to defend the sovereignty of Islam and the rights of Malays. Hussein is also the Education Minister. Hussein condemned a proposal which had been made, to form an Inter-Faith Commission.

The president of ABIM, Yusri Mohamad, confirmed at the conference that UMNO Youth would "defend the sovereignty of Islam" as specified in the Federal Constitution's Article 11 and 121 (1A). Mohamad said: "His (Hishammuddin) caution to the Article 11 Group, and groups who are actively stirring religious and sensitive issues should have raised awareness that the Malay-Muslim community's status is constantly under threat."

Mohamad said that demand for freedoms, such as the right to change faiths and the formation of an Inter-Faith Commission showed no respect for Muslims' "sensitivity".

Another speaker on the first day of the conference, UMNO veteran Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, secretary-general of the party, also spelled out the racism and Islamofascism of UMNO. He warned the other affiliates within the Barisan Nasional to avoid testing the Malays' patience, and even invoked the threat of "amuk" - a Malay tradition of ritual insanity and killing.

He said: "Please, don't test the Malays; in another word that they know 'amuk'. We don't want to reach that level. In the present situation, the Malays can still take it but efforts to enhance the Malays' economy need to be intensified."

He said that members of other races and religions had to make sacrifices, until Malay Muslims were compensated for their (imagined sacrifices). The reference was a dig at the Chinese, who hold most of the wealth.

Rahmat said: "If the Malays' economic power cannot be balanced out, we will face worrying situations....Don't let it reach a situation where the Malays start questioning 'with the sacrifices we have made, what have we got?'. That's also the question that is very important to be answered."

He advised the other Barisan Nasional parties not to question the "Malay Agenda" or "ketuanan Melayu". He said: "We hope MCA and Gerakan (another Chinese party) adopt the BN spirit. There is no need for us to champion racial interests and be extremely racist, because they will not bring profits."

Rahmat said that meetings had resolved previous contentious issues. He said; "We didn't discuss sensitive matters outside, used the media and press. It would have appeared we were quarrelling. It's something not right."

The Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also said that he would take strict action against any group which dared to question the status of Islam in Malaysia. He warned against any attempts to use Islam to promote intolerance, but also said that he would protect the Islamic (Syariah) courts from being undermined.

Badawi supports a notion of Islam which is called "Islam Hadhari", or "civilizational Islam", which believes that a quasi-moderate Islam can be used to promote culture and development in Malaysia, and could be exported as an example to other nations.

He said on Wednesday, November 15: "Unfortunately, some parties had misinterpreted Islam Hadhari as an excuse to become more conservative and more radical. Long-accepted cultural practices like wishing (well) other Malaysians of different religions in conjunction with their festivals had now been deemed taboo."

"Have we reached such a level of intolerance? Joint open houses are now condemned. When did we become ultra-conservative? This is not Islam Hadhari. Such an outlook threatens the unique tolerance for which Malaysian Muslims are renowned for and this should not be allowed to happen."

Badawi spoke of the issue of SMS messages which had recently been circulated, which had falsely alleged that mass Christian baptisms of Muslims had taken place. He said that "of late, we see increased polemics on issues related to race and religion. And it has reached a level where it is now worrying."

The following day, Badawi tried to reassure people that there was not a "worrying" level regarding race and religion. He told reporters on Thursday, November 16: "Not a worrying level as far as I am concerned but it is time to remind the people and to lay down the ground rule and that is exactly I have said (at the conference)."

"If it has come to such a level as has been described, it will be even more difficult to control at that time."

Badawi was asked about UMNO Youth's rejection of an Inter-Faith Commission. He replied that the cabinet had discussed the matter before. He said: "The word we used was we postpone. We've no plans to revive the matter. It is as good as not having it. To me, I will meet them, I also want to meet the (Islamic) religious groups. After that, I will meet the non-muslim groups. That's important."

On Saturday, November 19, the president of the Chinese MCA party, Ong Ka Ting, said that Badawi had given a "clear message that no one race can rule the country alone. The way we fought for Merdeka (independence) together, Umno, MCA and MIC, and the concept of kongsi kuasa (power sharing) as consented by our party veterans must be upheld."

Ong, who is the Housing and Local Government Minister, said: "The PM has again demonstrated the spirit of a leader for all Malaysians."

Despite such official support, the 57th annual conference on UMNO, which had been broadcast throughout Malaysia, has raised more questions than it has allayed fears.

Articles published by Reuters, Asia Times and Associated Press suggest that the issues of race and religion are creating more problems than UMNO and Barisan Nasional representatives will publicly admit.

Even Badawi's son-in-law has exploited racial divisions to subject the Chinese groups, already resented for their success in the economy, to further mistrust. 31year old Khairy Jamaluddin is deputy chief of UMNO's youth wing, ABID. In September, he said that Chinese political groups would exploit any splits within UMNO. When questioned about this, he had responded: "What is there to apologize for?...I am only defending my race."

The sight of Hishammudin Tun Hussein waving a keris in the air, broadcast through the nation, also raised concerns. One UMNO delegate at the conference, Hashim Suboh, had said: "Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham, when is he going to use it?"

The threats made by Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat to force the non-Muslims (Chinese) to make sacrifices financially to assist the Malay Muslims, who have failed to make economic progress, only highlights how destitute the ruling party's economic policies really are.

UMNO had formerly been led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003). He had been a hardliner who blamed Jews for Malaysia's problems, but still had encouraged economic development. This year Mahathir has been deliberately forced into the shadows by Badawi, seen as a liability with his rash statements and intrusions on matters of policy. Following a recent heart attack, Mahathir has become further marginalised.

In the face of rising Islamization, UMNO is failing to address the nation's problems realistically. Relying upon Hindus and Chinese to stay in power, its acceptance of the policies of destroying Hindu temples since April, and more recently the destruction of a Taoist temple in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, only serve to alienate the minorities in the so-called multi-racial state. The Nine Emperor Gods Taoist temple was relocated last year because its land had been sold to a property developer. It was demolished on Friday, November 18. Police fired shots at Chinese protesters as they supervised the destruction of the temple.

On Wednesday November 22 the cabinet questioned the wisdom of allowing the UMNO conference to be broadcast live. The Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Razak, said that at least three of the speeches from the conference could "be classified as extreme."

He told reporters: "The Cabinet has come to the opinion that there are more negative than positive implications in opening the proceedings to a live telecast. It paints an inaccurate picture of the general assembly."

On May 13, 1969, race riots between Chinese and Malays began in Kuala Lumpur. These only subsided in late July, after at least 196 people had been killed and many women had been raped. As a result of the riots, parliament was suspended until 1971.

The government had then blamed the introduction of the New Economic Policy, or NEP, for the conflict. This policy of affirmative action to promote Malay Muslims into jobs, at the expense of the Chinese, was intended to last for only 20 years, but has been indefinitely prolonged since then.

The speeches at the UMNO conference have only reminded the nation that the conditions which led to the 1969 racial situation are still in place.

Abdullah Badawi has asked for meetings with editors of Chinese-language and Malay editors of newspapers, where he is expected to ask them to "tone down" their reporting of religious and racial issues.

Lim Kit Siang, leader of the DAP (Democratic Action Party), the main opposition party, said on Friday, November 18: "If a Malaysian Chinese or Indian politician had warned of riots, being prepared to shed blood or even going amok, the Internal Security Act would have been invoked."

Malaysia's 49 years of independence have been marked by the Islamist and racist policies of UMNO. The Malay Muslims are given special rights in its policy of "ketuanan Melayu", the "Malay Agenda". It seems that only now is it starting to realize that such a racist agenda - when actual ethnic Malays only comprise 50.8% of the population - can only help to destroy a country, not to build it up.

By Adrian Morgan of Spero News

More on Malaysian Racism

Interesting article on racism in Malaysia - specifically how Chinese are dealt with and discriminated against. This makes for an interesting contrast to complaints by minorities in it's neighbors. The comments also show some good examples of asian racism in action.

Racism Rife in Malaysia's Melting Pot - Survey

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 22 (IPS) - Malaysia's first serious survey of race relations, in 50 years, shows that behind the façade of outward unity and peace, racism runs deep in this multi-ethnic 'melting pot'.

The telephone survey of about 1,200 Malaysians also found that the majority of the various races find comfort and security in their respective ethnicity and not in a common ‘Malaysian' identity, as the travel and tourism brochures suggest.

''The findings are not at all surprising,'' said social scientist Chandra Muzaffar. ''This is partly because ethnic boundaries are real in our society and almost every sphere of public life is linked to ethnicity in one way or another.''

The survey, by the independent Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, also found that negative racial stereotyping was deeply entrenched. For example, minority Chinese and Indians see the majority Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population of 25 million people, as lazy.

Chinese and Indians, who began migrating here in the early 19th century, make up 26 percent and 8.0 percent of the population, respectively.

It found that more than half the population does not trust each other. For a nation that claims to be a 'melting pot', only eleven percent of the respondents said they had eaten often with friends from other races in the past three months. Thirty four percent said they have never had a meal with people of other races.

The survey found that 42 percent do not consider themselves Malaysian first, 46 percent say ethnicity is important in voting, 55 percent blame politicians for racial problems and 70 percent would help their own ethnic group first.

According to the survey, 58 percent of Malays, 63 percent of Chinese and 43 percent of Indians polled agreed that ''in general, most Malays are lazy.''

Meanwhile, 71 percent of Malays, 60 percent of Chinese and 47 percent of Indians agree that ''in general, most Chinese are greedy.'' Sixty-four percent of Malays, 58 percent of Chinese and 20 percent of Indians agreed that ''in general, most Indians cannot be trusted.''

The survey, commissioned by the semi-official New Straits Times newspaper and supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, is the first honest look at Malaysian society and the findings have left Malaysians gasping in disbelief at how firmly racism and racial stereotyping has become entrenched and accepted as a way of life.

The Merdeka Centre said the survey ''gives an honest picture of the country's situation and inter-racial perception'' and warns that extremists can take advantage of inter-racial fears and suspicions in the absence of a meaningful interaction.

The ruling National Front government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi works hard to portray the country as an example of multiculturalism where Muslims, Hindus and Christians live together in peace.

But experts have been voicing concern that, increasingly, the communities were drifting apart and polarization of the races and a lack of social unity were on the rise.

They squarely blame the politicians and the country's race-based politics for the sharp rise in racism. The shocking findings have also prompted civil society to demand a ban on all race- based political parties.

''Let us outlaw all Malaysian political parties that restricts membership on grounds of race, religion or sex,'' said lawyer politician A. Sivanesan who is senior leader in the opposition Democratic Action Party, one of the four registered multi-racial parties in the country. ''It should be written in the constitution that only multi-racial bodies be permitted.''

Others say the few multi-racial political parties are weak and unable to grow because of the strong domination of race based parties over the political system.

''Social problems affect all communities,'' Sivanesan said. ''Poverty, drug and crime are not specific to any one race. All races face the blight.''

''What the survey clearly shows is that the various races live peacefully but separately,'' Sivanesan told IPS. ''Half a century after independence we are further away from knowing each other than when we startedàseparate schools, separate friends, separate lives.''

Curiously, the survey showed that many Malaysians had vague ideas, not only of each other's cultures and traditions but also of their own.

Hari Raya Puasa was wrongly perceived as the Malay New Year by 32 per cent of Malays, 84 per cent of Chinese and 45 per cent of Indians --when the festival actually marks the culmination of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.

Similarly, the Chinese New Year was thought to be a religious festival by 57 percent of Malays, 53 percent of Indians and a whopping 62 percent of Chinese respondents.

Despite the lack of unity, the country has enjoyed long periods of peace except for one race riot in 1969.

And unlike in some neighbouring countries where uniformity is enforced, Malaysia's minorities are not restricted and are free to practice their own cultures and religions and enjoy a vernacular education.

But, the government officially practices a policy of positive discrimination that favours Malays over other races in many areas -- from employment, education, scholarships and business to cheaper housing and assisted savings.

Private companies must hand over 30 percent of equity to ethnic Malays and a portion of housing and commercial property must be sold to them

These measures, collectively called the New Economic Policy or NEP, were started in 1970 to reduce the yawning economic gap with the Chinese community, which dominates business in this country, as in most of South-east Asia.

Originally designed to last for 20 years it has continued without check, sparking envy and resentment between Malays and non-Malays.

Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was sacked and jailed in 1998, has caused a stir by proposing to reform the political landscape which he says is straining national harmony.

''We need to appeal to the Malays, Chinese and the Indians and the rest that we need to go beyond race-based politics. If you continue to harp and support this racial equation, you will never be able to overcome racial divisions,'' he told supporters at a recent rally.

The government is aware of the deep divide and has taken measures to close the gap. One experiment in racial integration is the 'Vision Schools' initative where students share sports fields, assembly halls and canteens, but attend classes conducted in their own languages.

But the initiative is embroiled in controversy mainly because of the fear among Chinese and Indians that the vernacular education system would suffer and erode their identities.

A popular initiative, the national service programme, started in 2004, puts youths of all the races under a single roof. Students are chosen at random and taken to camps for about three months in the hope that they will learn team work and absorb each other's culture.

But, the experts say racism is too deeply entrenched in official policies and the socio-political system for such 'half-hearted' measures to make impact.

''The survey's findings might be a bitter pill to swallow but it tells us who we really are behind the façade we show the world,'' said Sivanesan. (END/2006)

The First Five

The first five articles posted on this blog cover a variety of issues. Singapore comes into special attention with a variety of articles focusing on the challenges faced by non-chinese minorities in the Lion City.

Although Singapore has done much to stop racial violence the academic study in particular shows that even the younger generation of Singaporeans show some racist traits, although thankfully they are not a majority. The two articles also questions the assertion made by many Singaporeans i have encountered that Singapore is a land of equal opportunity. Of particular concern is the lack of anti-discrimination statute law in Singapore.

Hong Kong also is in the spotlight today with an excellent article looking at the racist attitudes towards non-asians, especially those with brown skin colour. Attitudes towards darker skin color are also examined in the Korean context and an excellent article on Asian Racism in general from the International Herald Tribune is also posted.

One key features of asian racism is that it is often thinly disguised under 'nationalistic feeling' or 'patriotism'. Another common feature when dealing with asian racists is that complaints by minorities simply dismissed or disbelieved.

A common tactic of asian racists is to attack your home country or culture and point out it's flaws and on this basis suggest that you have no 'right' to offer observations or criticisms of their culture or own racist policies. I hope these articles can begin to provide an insight into the complex world of asian racism and begin to equip enlightened and tolerant people to question, consider and attack the issues when suitable occasions to do so arise.

More on Singapore

The Farce City

by Ana Jumari

G21 ASIA Staff Writer

"Racism seems to just be coffee talk, you know? It's a taboo that only a minority ... talk of openly. People know it exists but people just turn a blind eye ..." --- Kir

Back in mid-July, 1964, a huge celebration commemorating prophet Mohammed's birthday involved 25,000 Moslems who were supposed to march approximately 7 kilometers from the Padang (our national parade square in the center of our island) east to Geylang (the poster area for the Malay community).

The celebrations were cut short when someone threw a bottle and ticked off more than a few.

By 6 PM that day, Geylang was licked in flames and cars had been overturned. Half an hour later, the first of the clashes was reported at Chinatown. The violence spread throughout the small island like fingers of hate. By the end of the first day, 4 people had been sacrificed and 178 more injured.

At the end of the two-week nightmare, the racial riots of 1964 had claimed 23 lives and amassed nearly 500 casualties.

Almost 30 years later, New York Times writer Steven Erlanger (NY Times, May 13, 1990) points out that "Singaporean officials now like to speak of the city-state as a mosaic of cultures --- a successful amalgam of immigrant peoples who have made an implausible nation succeed through hard work, tough government, anti-Communism and free enterprise."

Looks great on the brochure doesn't it?

And for the longest of time, I've had to grapple with the fused idea that my country is both "multi-racial" and "Chinese". Which is it? Define "multi-racial." Four ethnic groups crammed on this little island. This island renowned for "political stability."

One interesting question: Isn't this all a masquerade?

Ku Klux Klansman, Black Nationalist, Serb, Bosnian, Yugoslav, Palestinean, Israeli --- ethnic discrimination amasses libraries of books in the histories of this planet. And people wonder what it is about Singapore that keeps its people so harmonious. Think it's the water? *shrug*

"Singaporeans are not blind to the racism that exists but [choose] to be blind --- for a simple reason -- harmony and peace." -- Vin

Every single day, four different races ride in the same buses, the same trains. And every single day, each is gossiping about the other.

I have come to realize a sad fact growing up in this country -- native Malays and Indians will always be second-rate citizens wherever we go. And if I know it, most of my comrades here know it, too.

Four years ago, the web became the platform for yet another interesting discussion. [].

An nteresting observant calling himself"Sheik" pointedly notes that "...under the [Singapore] Constitution, the government may not discriminate solely on the grounds of race, religion, language or decent in the passing of or implementation of any law. But there is nothing preventing private individuals and corporations from [practicing] such discrimination.

"In UK there is a Race Relations Act which prohibits any such practice. Isn't it a little strange that people can legally be racists in Singapore, free from rules that even the government must obey?"

That is not strange my friend, that is pure irony. You don't have to be a lawyer to know that the law has become a toy of manipulation -- a puppet on strings. "Multi-racial" in and of itself, can already be seen as a division of the races. It almost looks to me like the government is refusing to recognize its existence.

The media constantly downplay how strong ethnic favoritism has grown, how boldly it is implemented. And ironically, it is easiest in the print media to find blatant racial discrimination. Grab a paper, whip open the classifieds and scan the ads - "Bilingual in English and Chinese preferred". Send a resume, go for an interview. "Oh, you not Chinese hah? Don't call us, we'll call you."

"We may have degrees --- diplomas, or masters but in the end [somehow] we ... must be Chinese speaking. " -- D

" ... forget [the] qualifications cos all they [want] is a CHINESE ..." -- Vin

I have not come to understand the mindset of these employers. At the end of the day, all that results from blue/white collar labor are human relationships. Humans have built, from skin alone, massive walls that divide. Do they really enjoy strengthening this wall between two people of different color?

I apologize.

I forget once again. It is always so much easier to strengthen the wall, than it is to break it.

"The result for its minority populations: an enhanced feeling of distance, divisiveness, and alienation" - Fuller.

"For many years, no one said nothing and it'll continue. The repression that the [minorities] feel will always be there and it'll take many years to eradicate this feeling that is instilled in them." -- Vin

Personally, I've grown skeptical of "national pride" (I challenge you to blame me). I don't need official figures to slap me awake. The one country I proudly sang about when I was young and it has done so much in as far as casting aside the needs of my people, constantly bearing down on my people. And if I'm sitting here writing this, you can bet thousands more minority youths sitting around broaching exactly the same issue.

"It is so 'in your face' but people pretend not to look. You just can't [place] your finger on the right button." -- Farhan

My friends constantly remind me that everything comes with a price. I suppose that makes racism and racial discrimination the price-tag for all I can be thankful for -- the food on my table, the excellent public transport, excellent infrastructure, excellent technology, stable income ...

Price tag or otherwise, when is racism ever justifiable?

Singapore's population has reached its fourth million. Recent figures show that one in every four of us is foreign-born. That adds up to one million people. Ever wonder how the figures rose to that?

Associate Professor in Communications, Worcester College, Linda K. Fuller wrote an academic paper on the Singapore Chinese rule, posted 6/30/98 []. She cites Mutalib, who points out ""the intensification of the annual "Speak Mandarin Campaign'", the repeated call for Chinese to have more babies, the big budget for Chinese drama serials on television... and notes these trends:

" ... the insistence that the Chinese proportion of the population must stay and may reach a maximum of 76%, a liberal immigration policy designed to bring in some 100,000 Hongkong Chinese to Singapore, the official patronage for Confucian studies, and the building of Chinese theme parks and entertainment centers by Hongkong tycoons."

With racial figures constantly tipping the scales, how will the minorities carry on groping ahead amidst the seeming sandstorm?

It's always been a long, hard season for the minority in worlds where majorities govern, but the crops waiting for harvest have emerged stronger. With them, a newfound determination has evolved -- iron-will. As a minority member, I work harder, push harder hoping to catapult my people ahead.

"If a design firm won't hire me because of my race, I will use this anger [as a] catalyst to start up my own company and give that design firm a run for it's money. Get what I mean?" -- Kir

I am but a number in the constant run of statistics. So is he, he, she and he. We all are, but we can't be the only weights exerting our people ahead. As a minority, we need to wake up to the constant calls for the edge over the rat race. I cannot hope to catapult my people ahead by sitting down and thinking this is the best I've got because "I can't get any farther than this --- this isn't the country of my people."

"But hopefully, one day things do change and the younger generation will have the courage and strength to do what they deem is right and tell the world how things are really here." -- Vin

As a youth still gingerly stepping out, I am proud to be able to say that my people have surged farther ahead in the last ten years than we ever have since this country's independence. More of us recognize the need for continuing education. More of us recognize the influx of technology and the need for constant self-improvement.

But there is still that number who get carried away with wiles of youth. They drop out, look upon learning institutions with disdain, and then whine about life's bitchiness and the disadvantages of minority.

Narrow horizons have always been my people's most bitter enemy. If he opens himself to the vast universe of his mind and she does the same with hers, all our figures will add up. And that would be more than a catapult as figures for our community.

Then no one can bullshit us about what we can or cannot do with our skin.

" ... the thing about racism is not to let it get to you, but to keep going in spite of it and prove the attitudes wrong. If you let it get to you, then --- these chauvinists have succeeded in their hate campaign. Little solace, but all I can say is, welcome to the unfortunate real world of Singapore, my friend."
Thank you, Sheik.

Asian racism: from the apologetics to the reality

“James,” a commenter on an older post that contrasted racial attitudes in Korea and China, weighed in with a defense of Korea that’s familiar to most of us living in Asia:

There is no racism in Korea. Korea is NOT a multicultural country. It’s a mono-cultural country.

My first reaction is that Japan is far more “monocultural” than a Korea heavily influenced by China, Mongolia, Japan, and more recently, the US, yet no Korean would accept the claim that there’s no racism in Japan on the grounds that Japan is not a multicultural country.

That said, the notion that a society must be multicultural, that is, it must have more than one main racial group, for racism to exist is not new, but it is archaic in the age of globalization. Even if a country has no minorities living within its borders, cultural exchanges and the media have seen to it that most people will develop opinions — read: stereotypes — about races and ethnicities they have never met. How else can we explain Chinese saying to me, “Blacks are all naturally great athletes” or “Jews are all really rich and crafty”? Absent the exchanges inherent in globalization, where are the Chinese blacks, where are the Chinese Jews, for these stereotypes to emerge?

Opinions about other racial and ethnic groups can be positive or negative, and, naturally, the more negative the opinion, the greater the potential for racism. Of course, in a homogenous country like Korea or Japan, this potential racism will rarely materialize into racist acts, and if we were to judge racism according to race-motivated crimes, discrimininatory laws, and the like, the West would appear to be infinitely more racist than the countries of East Asia. (This aspect of the debate leads to another common tactic used by its Asian participants, namely, their tendency to invoke Rodney King or the KKK to distract from criticism of their own countries.)

However, racism must also be measured in terms of racist attitudes, and here, East Asia catches up to, and in some cases, overtakes the West. Racist attitudes are not only a matter of holding negative views of those unlike ourselves, but also include esteeming our own “race” above others. When a Korean, for example, is taught the uniqueness and superiority of their “race” as part of their education, it fosters the development of a value system that treats race as part of the yardstick by which to measure individuals. This runs counter to the norm of colorblindness in most Western countries. Moreover, for Americans and Europeans who have internalized the liberal values of the civil rights movement, to hear an Asian say “I’m proud of my race” can be a cringe-inducing experience, even though these words, in the context of homogeneity, sometimes mean “I’m proud of my country.”

Yet there are times when esteeming one’s race, and more disturbingly, esteeming the “purity” of said race, cannot be taken as mere patriotism. North Korea’s advocacy of Korean racial purity is extreme, so let us consider a more tangible anecdote that’s become rather infamous among some African expatriates living in Tianjin and Beijing. The following story has come to me second-hand, but I have every reason to believe its accuracy.

A few years ago, an African student studying at Beijing Foreign Studies University met and fell in love with a Korean girl who was also studying in Beijing. The girl and boy dated and stayed together for a little while, but soon some of the other Korean students caught word of their romance. The Korean boys, deeming it unseemly for a Korean girl to be with an African, began to intimidate both the girl and the boy to get them to break up. This intimidation culminated with a group of a half-dozen Koreans assaulting the African’s dormitory room, smashing his door down, and proceeding to accuse him of “taking advantage of” the Korean girl, and threatening him with physical violence. The African boy insisted that the girl was with him because she liked him, not because he had tricked her in any way. Ultimately, however, his appeal to reason did not defuse the situation; the boy had to threaten to call the cops to get the Koreans to leave his dormitory. In the end, the racists won, because the couple’s relationship could not endure the intimidation.

This scene should seem hauntingly familiar to anyone who’s studied the history of racist reactions to interracial relationships in the United States during the 20th century. All of the classic elements of racist backlash are there: (1) the “loss” of a female to a black person as a rallying point for males of the female’s race; (2) public intimidation of the mixed couple; (3) assertions that the black man has “seduced” the woman or that the relationship is otherwise illegitimate; and (4) a violent confrontation between a group of males and the black man in question. Everyone involved is lucky that the incident did not end in a lynching, but this was undoubtedly racism at work. Yet how can that be, since “there is no racism in Korea”?

A final (and I daresay unnecessary) disclaimer: East Asian racism, be it Korean, Chinese, or Japanese, is by no means the most alarming racism I’ve seen or encountered, but it deserves to be catalogued alongside white racism, black racism, and other manifestations of the phenomenon. If we are honest to history and to ourselves, we will recognize it as a social problem worthy of being analyzed and critiqued and, eventually, eliminated, for racism, in any form, is a wound in the heart of mankind.

Hong Kongs Racism

Hong Kong’s Racial Bias Print E-mail
SR Bhose
26 February 2007

Where is the "world" in Hong Kong’s claim to be Asia’s World City?

This World City is growing more parochial
The vivid posters around Hong Kong’s Central District proclaim Hong Kong to be Asia’s World City. But at best this self-accorded accolade looks increasingly threadbare and at worst hides a worrying level of discrimination against “brown” Asians from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Over the past five years, the number of ethnic non-Chinese has fallen from 5.1 percent to 5.0 percent of the population. That may not seem much of a decline but it has occurred at a time when the economy has mostly been in recovery from the financial malaise that gripped it from 1997 through 2003 and an influx of foreigners might have been expected.

However, more instructive than the numbers is the composition of the city’s foreign population. An increased percentage are domestic helpers who have no right to permanent residence, rather than the business and professional classes who are the key to the city’s international status.

Even among domestic helpers there has been a big shift. The numbers of often better-educated Filipinos are falling, while those of Indonesians have risen sharply, mostly because many are prepared to work for less than the minimum wage prescribed by the government – a law that is seldom enforced by officials who often show contempt for their brown servants.

The number of persons deemed to be “white” – it is not clear what the definition is – has fallen from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent, clearly indicating a decline in the numbers of Europeans, North Americans, and Australasians, other than those of Chinese descent. Those would almost all be from the professional and business classes. Fewer whites would not be a problem if they were being replaced by other high-skilled foreigners to help keep Hong Kong connected to the non-Chinese world. But that is not the case. Numbers of other Asians have at best been static.

Nor is the government encouraging them. The ethnic bias of its formal immigration program is stunning. In addition to the fixed number of mainlanders allowed to settle, and the small number of non-Chinese who acquire permanent residence by virtue of staying here for seven years, there are two categories of people the government is supposed to lure with offers of permanent residence: big investors and those with special skills and talents.

The latter are now admitted under what is known as the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. Announced a year ago, it permits admission of up to 1,000 people a year. Hong Kong, it was supposed, was opening up to skilled people from anywhere, competing with the likes of Singapore, Australia, etc for brains and special skills regardless of ethnicity or nationality. They would be admitted without needing to have a job in advance.

But in reality the scheme is puny and the beneficiaries are almost all from the mainland. In the first selection exercise, conducted in November, there were 83 approvals out of 122 applications. Of these 76 percent were from mainland China and only 2 percent from elsewhere in Asia. Details of ethnicity were not available. In the second allotment, announced this month, 81 percent of the 66 successful applicants were from the mainland. They are overwhelmingly male, between 30 and 39 years of age.

The next allotments will not be made till mid-2007. In other words, the numbers are sure to fall far short of the original expectation and the number of non-Chinese will be so small as to have minimal significance.

The same trend is apparent with the scheme to attract investors. Under the capital investment program, those who invest upwards of HK$6.5 million in financial assets or real estate can obtain residence without having to set up an actual business. As of end-2006, 978 approvals had been given representing HK$6.9 billion in investment. Of these 553 were mainlanders and 144 residents of Taiwan or Macao; actual foreigners accounted for less than 30 percent. Data on ethnicity is not available but judging from the hassles those who are neither white nor Chinese – and particularly Indians -- receive at the hands of Immigration and Customs officers, Hong Kong seems reluctant to see more brown, let alone black, people residing here other than as menial servants.

Quite apart from the issue of attracting non-Chinese who can benefit “Asia’s world city” Hong Kong has yet to face up to the discrimination faced by its brown minorities who were born or have acquired permanent residence in the territory. While many Indians are members of the business and professional classes, most from the Nepali and Pakistani communities, offspring of soldiers and police who served under the British, are a poorly educated, poorly paid underclass.

Those of sub-continental origin total about 0.7 percent of the population or some 50,000 people. While proposals for a law outlawing racial discrimination in employment have been discussed, the government has been dragging its feet reluctant to challenge the ethnic bias which was deeply embedded in Hong Kong by the British.

While Hong Kong remains an open economy and it is relatively easy for foreigners to get work permits or set up businesses, there is scant evidence that the government is doing anything to ensure that its international status is sustained through a liberal immigration policy and respect for other Asians.