25th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) Amid the bustling, ultra-modern corridors of Hong Kong, local Chinese media continue to promote a troubling narrative—one that frequently casts South Asians as the primary perpetrators of criminal activity within the city. This portrayal not only distorts the reality of a complex socio-cultural landscape but also reflects a global trend where certain ethnic groups are marginalised, similar to the discrimination Muslims experience in Western narratives.

This insidious portrayal bears striking similarities to the vilification of Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11, where isolated acts of terrorism were used to paint an entire religion with broad strokes of extremism. Just as Muslims found themselves scrutinised and vilified across the West, South Asians in Hong Kong now find themselves disproportionately spotlighted in crime reports, their actions fuelling a dangerous stereotype that paints them as a community predisposed to criminality.

South Asians in Hong Kong, encompassing a diverse community from various backgrounds and professions, often find themselves in the unenviable position of being the primary focus of the city’s crime narratives. This selective reporting perpetuates a dangerous stereotype, one that reinforces the notion of a community inherently linked to criminal activity.

The irony, however, lies in the fact that these reports often overshadow a far more systemic and widespread threat to public safety – the activities of Hong Kong’s deeply entrenched triad gangs. These organised crime syndicates, engaged in a myriad of illegal enterprises from drug trafficking to extortion, pose a far graver danger to the social fabric of the city. Yet, the emphasis on South Asian involvement in lesser crimes often serves to obscure the true scale and impact of triad operations.

The bias embedded in the portrayal of South Asians in Hong Kong’s crime reports becomes particularly evident when one examines the treatment of crimes involving local triad members. Incidents linked to these organised crime groups, despite their potentially more severe impact on societal safety and order, often receive a nuanced treatment, acknowledging the complex socio-economic factors at play.

In contrast, crimes attributed to South Asians are frequently stripped of such context, presented instead as straightforward confirmations of a community’s alleged criminal tendencies. This selective representation is not just a media issue, but one that resonates through the corridors of power and public opinion, influencing policy and everyday interactions. It perpetuates an ‘us versus them’ mentality, where South Asians are viewed through a lens of suspicion and prejudice, echoing the discrimination Muslims face globally under similar circumstances of skewed narratives.

Media outlets, as significant shapers of public opinion, bear a critical responsibility in either perpetuating or challenging these stereotypes. The current trend of reporting, which leans towards sensationalism and selective representation, needs a thorough reevaluation. There needs to be a balanced approach that not only reports incidents involving South Asians, but also highlights positive stories of integration, success, and contribution to Hong Kong’s society.

Policymakers too must address these issues at the systemic level. Laws and regulations that directly or indirectly discriminate against South Asians, often under the guise of maintaining security or public order, need to be scrutinised and reformed. This includes reevaluating how law enforcement and the judicial system handle cases involving South Asians, ensuring fairness and equity in legal proceedings.

The challenge faced by South Asians in Hong Kong is not unique; it mirrors the experiences of Muslims globally, who have also found themselves on the receiving end of disproportionate scrutiny and discrimination. In the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims across the Western world faced heightened suspicion, increased surveillance, and the stigmatisation of their religious practices – all based on the actions of a radical few.

Just as Muslims have found themselves painted with the broad brush of extremism, South Asians in Hong Kong now find their community’s diverse tapestry reduced to a single, ominous thread – that of criminality. This shared experience of marginalisation highlights the worrying truth that certain ethnic and religious groups have long been subjected to the tyranny of simplistic narratives, where individuals are judged not by the content of their character, but by the colour of their skin or the faith they profess.