Friday, December 4, 2015

[Publication] Book Review on Chinese Migration to Europe: Prato, Italy, and Beyond

Hiu Ling, our MPhil graduate, has her first book review being published on the Journal of Chinese Overseas (Volume 11, Issue 2, pages 220 – 223). She reviewed the book Chinese Migration to Europe: Prato, Italy, and Beyond, written by Loretta Baldassar, Graeme Johanson, Narelle McAuliffe, and Massimo Bressan.

A screencap of Hiu Ling's publication on the website of Brill Online Books and Journals

To read the book review, please go to the website of Brill Online Books and Journals.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

[FUN with Interculturalism] Recruiting Helpers

Multiculturalism in Action Project is going to organize a new event, FUN with Interculturalism, to promote cultural diversity and equal opportunity in the community!! The project includes an exhibition on South Asians in Hong Kong and a kabaddi hands-on program.

We are now looking for helpers to be docents of the exhibition and teach kabaddi during the events.

To be our helpers, you need to:

1) Attend a compulsory training session to learn South Asian culture and kabaddi:
Date: 12/12/2015 (Saturday)
Time: 12:30 - 16:30
Venue: Rm 401, Humanities Building

2) Attend at least 3 sessions in January / February held in local community centers / secondary schools.

Allowance will be provided during the training session and each event you attend.

All are welcome! Please register on or before 10/12/2015 at

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

[Pakistani Culture Workshop] Personal Narratives: Minority Women in a Multicultural Environment

Multiculturalism in Action 2015-16
Pakistani Culture Workshop: Making a Change for the Better

Session 5: Personal Narratives: Minority Women in a Multicultural Environment
Speakers:  Multicultural Team, YMCA Cheung Sha Wan Centre, and Pakistani ladies from Sham Shui Po

On 21 November, 2015, participants of the Pakistani Culture Workshop visited YMCA Cheung Sha Wan Centre to learn about the everyday experiences of Pakistanis in Sham Shui Po, in relation to aspects such as gender, family, marriage, and migrant experiences. Participants also had the chance to practice interview skills as a preparation for their community-based projects.
Ms. Law Lap Man, Principal Program Officer of the YMCA Multicultural Team, first gave us an introduction to their work in bridging the South Asian and Chinese communities in Sham Shui Po. Pakistanis and Nepalis were the main service users and sometimes there were also Indians and Filipinos joining their programs. Apart from providing services to the South Asian residents in Sham Shui Po, the Team also managed a community shop selling handicrafts made by South Asian women as a way to supplement their family income.
During the presentation, Ms. Law highlighted the point that it was usually the mothers who came to the Center to join the programs. Even though the Center aimed at serving “parents”, the fathers seldom attended their activities. One possible reason was the gender division of labor in the family, as mothers were considered homemakers and therefore responsible for childcaring. She also mentioned that some years ago the fathers would come too, when there was a Pakistani colleague in their Team. Thus it may be that the gender concept among the fathers had discouraged their attendance.   
Ms. Law then briefly outlined the history of South Asians in Hong Kong. The first generation had come with the British Army in 1848, but the term “Pakistanis” only appeared after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. More than 99% of Pakistanis in Hong Kong were Muslims. Ms. Saleena, a Pakistani colleague, reminded us that there were also some Pakistani Christians in Hong Kong, and we should not generalize the Pakistani community as a homogeneous group. 

Ms. Law giving a presentation

Ms. Saleena then introduced what henna was. She said henna was a body art popular all over South Asia. Women drew it as a leisure art or during wedding and festivals, while men drew henna only during festivals. Some patterns of henna were really complicated, but women loved to draw mostly flowers and birds which were symbols of fortune. Nowadays, young people loved to draw whatever they liked, such as personal names, or even characters in video games.

Henna drawing

We then divided into three groups to conduct group interview with the ladies. Topics that were discussed included migration, family, marriage, and how these different factors interacted. Although our interviewees were mostly second and third generation in Hong Kong, they had strong connections with Pakistan. A teenager who was fourth generation living in Hong Kong said she missed Pakistan because her cousins were there. Her last journey to Pakistan was two years ago. She hoped to travel to Pakistan more often but the cost of a family trip was very expensive. 

Group discussion

In terms of marriage practices, arranged marriage was popular and it was a factor for many Pakistani migrants coming to Hong Kong. Pakistani girls aged around 12 to 13 could already be engaged and migrant marriages were common. Although the new generation was more open to dating, they were still observant of the customs to choose a spouse from among Pakistani Muslims. Like many Hong Kong females, the interviewees had their own imaginations about their future husbands - a handsome and muscular guy, while at the same time accepting the fact that it was their parents who would try to arrange a good marriage for them.   
We also enjoyed masala milk tea and a Muslim dessert called sheer khurma prepared by the Pakistani ladies.  Sheer khurma was a pudding made from vermicelli, milk, sugar, and spices. Ms. Saleena explained that Muslims prepared sheer khurma after the Ramadan and during the Festival of Sacrifice. 
The program ended with a three-minute video that summarized the multicultural work of YMCA Cheung Sha Wan Centre. Although it was not an easy job to promote multiculturalism in Hong Kong, Ms. Law believed the situation would change, and the day would come when no ethnic group would be ignored in Hong Kong as a truly cosmopolitan city. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

[Event] Orientation Day for Undergraduate Admissions 2015

The CUHK Orientation Day for Undergraduate Admissions 2015 was successfully held on 24th October. The Orientation Day is an annual event, serving as a good opportunity for secondary school students, teachers and parents to know more about CUHK and the undergraduate programmes it offers.

Undergraduate students answering visitors' enquiries at the Information Booth

During the Orientation Day, students of the department helped to introduce anthropology and explain our programme requirements to secondary school students and other visitors. Prof. Gordon Mathews, Prof. Teresa Kuan, Prof. Sealing Cheng, and Prof. Sharon Wong also helped to deliver admission talks to visitors in English and Cantonese respectively.

Prof. Cheng's talk had attracted over 90 visitors!

In addition to the information booth and admission talks, we had also set up an exhibition of ethnic clothing in Room 205 of Esther Lee Building. Our department was also opened for students’ visit, with teachers’ publications and thematic ethnographic collections being displayed.

The exhibition of ethnic clothing prepared by our department

This year, Prof. Sharon Wong and Prof. Wengcheong Lam, together with our postgraduate and undergraduate students, also organized an archaeology demonstration session at the Archaeology Lab in Tsang Shiu Tim Building.

Prof. Sharon Wong leading the archaeology demonstration session

Thanks to the efforts of our teachers and students, this year’s Orientation Day was a great success! Hopefully, the secondary school students could know more about anthropology and our undergraduate programme after the event.

Prof. Teresa Kuan (first row, second from left) and some of the postgraduate and undergraduate students that helped in the event

Thursday, November 26, 2015

We've Started Accepting Applications for MA Programme 2016-17!

Postgraduate programmes offered by the Department of Anthropology, CUHK

Here is some brief application information of the MA programmes of the Department of Anthropology at CUHK. For more details please visit the Department's homepage

Programme Overview
The goal of the programme is to teach students the basic theories and methods of social and cultural anthropology and to give them a broad understanding of anthropology's different topics. Students will learn to develop their abilities of critical, independent and creative thinking in analyzing contemporary social and political issues, and understanding the diversity of human cultures and societies. 
A key feature and major advantage of the Programme is that students are able to take courses that fit their background and interest. For example, foreign students can concentrate on Chinese society and culture, while students working in museums can concentrate on the anthropology of tourism, museums, archaeology, and other areas relevant to their work.

Who Should Apply
The M.A. Programme is designed for people who have or have not majored in anthropology but wish to receive a formal education in the discipline. Work experience is desirable which allows students to relate coursework to their profession. Candidates with a strong background in social sciences may wish to concentrate on one of the Department's specializations such as the Anthropology of East Asia or Ethnicity and Identity. 

Information Session
Date: 5 December 2015 (Sat)
Time: 2:00pm
Venue: Room 205, Esther Lee Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Registration: Please click here

Application Information
Application method: Graduate School Online Application 
Application deadline: 15 January 2016 (1st round); 29 February 2016 (2nd round)

Tuition Fee
HK$95,000 per annum (full-time); 
HK$47,500 per annum (part-time)

Telephone: (852) 3943-7670 / 3943-7677

For the Mphil / PhD programmes 2016-2017, please refer to our earlier blog post.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

[Upcoming Seminar] Aging Across Borders: How Older Taiwanese Immigrants and Returnees Manage Care In Daily Lives

Aging Across Borders: How Older Taiwanese Immigrants and Returnees Manage Care In Daily Lives

Speaker: Ken Chih-Yan SUN (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 27 Nov 2015 (Friday)  
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK


Dr. Sun's research examines aging in Asia and Asian America by comparing the lived experiences of older Taiwanese immigrants with those of aging returnees to Taiwan. He argues that the changing contextual forces involved in the process of international migration and aging inspire, push, and even require older immigrants and returnees to reconstruct their understandings of race, ethnicity, gender, and social membership when managing various forms of care in their later lives. Sun highlights a variety of ways in which older Taiwanese Americans—including both immigrants and returnees—critically interpret and creatively apply concepts of tradition, assimilation, and modernization in order to address life transitions and to respond to socio-cultural and generational changes in both a national and transnational context.

Ken Chih-Yan Sun received his Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University. Before arriving to Hong Kong, he taught at the College of William and Mary, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Nanyang Technological University and Academia Sinica. Dr. Sun published his works in Journal of Marriage and Family, Global Networks, Sociological Forum, Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Sociology Compass, Norwegian American Studies, Mass Communication Research, and Chinese Journal of Communication Research. His research areas include migration, families, race/ethnicity, gender, and aging and life course studies. He is currently writing a book on aging and transnationalism.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

[In the Press] Enriching our Education with Anthropology

Prof. Gordon Mathews together with two students and an alumna of our department have been featured in the article "Enriching our Education with Anthropology" on the website of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. They talk about how anthropology shows the complexity of culture, and how it provides them a holistic perspective in viewing things and the surrounding environment.

Screenshot of the article

Extract of the article
'The role of anthropology is to show the complexity of culture; culture interweaves with biology, environment, economics, religion, political structures and so on.’ Commenting on the characteristics of anthropology, Professor Mathews stressed the pivotal role played by ethnography and participant observation, a research method commonly employed by anthropologists and ethnographers.'
'Anthropology provides a vehicle for examining the many facets of life, which range from gender, religion, language, politics, economics, food, medicine, and material culture to rituals and symbols. For that reason, anthropology has much to offer to a broad education.'

Click here to read the full article:  English version / Chinese version

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

[Friday Seminar Recap] Sunday Catwalks: Aspirations of Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong

Sunday Catwalks: Aspirations of Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong

Speaker: Dr. Ju-chen Chen (Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 6 Nov 2015 (Friday)
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK


Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are often homogenized, exoticized, and stigmatized as people who live without purpose beyond remitting money home. Their lives are often not visible and understandable to the mainstream society. Dr. Ju-chen Chen, in the seminar, shared with us the aspirations of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong and gave us a better understanding of their lives.

Dr. Ju-chen Chen
Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong participate in various activities during their leisure time, among all, Chen drew the audience to the focus of the talk “Sunday catwalks”. Chen showed the audience video clips of two beauty pageants: Miss Pinoyshot Princess and Miss Barkadahan. In the videos, the domestic workers show their confidence on the stage and demonstrate themselves as desiring subjects. Dr Chen quoted how her informants describe themselvesI want something greater for myself”, and “I have talent. I know I can do it.”

Currently, there are about 0.33 million foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, and 50% of them are Filipinos. Chen noted that the majority of these Filipino workers have some college education. Their college degree, rather than bringing upward mobility, is only the entrance ticket for them to get a job; and taking up an overseas career as a domestic worker is one of the “choices” of an aspiring subject.

The active participation of domestic workers in the beauty pageants reveals their aspirations in creating personal achievement. The organization of beauty pageants involves an event making process, from forming a working committee to rehearsing. This process has outlined some important qualities an aspiring foreign domestic worker looked for: being talented, confident and self-enterprising. These events, in addition to be key components of a strong ethnic economy, are sites for isolated (alone in an employer's home) domestic workers to garner "corporeal" friendship and community within the ethnic group.

The audience
Lastly, Chen talked about the trouble of aspirations: the pursuits of a “valuable life” can be actualized only in markets, and its actualization through, for example, an objectified gendered body and hierarchical categories of jobs are framed by specific regulations of the global political economy. She hoped that her research can make the life and aspirations of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong visible and understandable to the mainstream society.

Monday, November 16, 2015

[Pakistani Culture Workshop] Health and the Pakistani Community

Multiculturalism in Action 2015-16
Pakistani Culture Workshop: Making a Change for the Better

Session 4: Health and the Pakistani Community

Speakers: Dr. Nazia Shahid and Ms. Asma Batool

The Multiculturalism in Action Project organized a public seminar entitled Health and the Pakistani Community on 7 November, 2015 at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Prof. Siumi Maria Tam, Director of the Project, gave an introduction to issues related to healthcare among the Pakistanis in Hong Kong. Cultural and social factors, such as language barrier and lack of information, affected the quality and frequency of healthcare seeking. Many Pakistani patients found it difficult to communicate with Cantonese-speaking clinic staff, including the doctors and nurses. Some did not know there were free interpretation services provided in government hospitals and clinics. On the other hand, the lifestyle and occupations of Pakistanis in Hong Kong triggered specific health problems. Obesity, for example, was common among Pakistanis because their diet contained high fat and sugar content.
Prof. Tam giving an introduction
The Hospital Authority and some non-government organizations have started special service programs to meet these needs. For example, ethnic minority languages were used in response cue cards, disease information sheets, and patient consent forms in public hospitals and clinics. The United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service and HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre have been providing outreach and public education for the general public. Prof. Tam encouraged the audience to think whether these services were accessible to those in need, and to what extent these services were effective and helpful.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Nazia Shahid delivered an informative presentation on the general medical issues among the Pakistanis. She highlighted the fact that 37.6% of Pakistanis were born in Hong Kong, which was a relatively high ratio when compared with other ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong. First, Dr. Nazia explained some basic concepts on how Islam understood “health” and “disease”. Islam perceived health and illness as balance and imbalance of a body respectively. The Quran has provided guidelines to Muslims to stay healthy, such as one should maintain good personal hygiene, avoid drinking alcohol, and eating halal food. She also explained the concept of “life” in Islam, and the belief in afterlife - death was a transition for the soul to depart the body and enter another realm. Islam helped to comfort Muslim patients and their families who perceived illness as a test or punishment from God, and provided a spiritual healing power through prayers and meditation to ask forgiveness from God.
Dr. Nazia giving a presentation
Dr. Nazia explained that it was mainly non-communicable diseases such as obesity, heart attack, and high blood pressure that affected Pakistanis in Hong Kong. Females were more vulnerable to these diseases because they were not encouraged to go outside so they rarely had physical activities. Limited information on healthcare, and an oily diet, led to heart attacks, high blood pressure, and obesity. Compared to their counterparts in Pakistan, those in Hong Kong had better health in general, as they had adjusted to a steamed cuisine and more attention on their body shape. Pregnancy was another factor affecting the health of women. As each pregnancy made it harder to get back to pre-pregnant physical conditions, when Pakistani women needed to bear more children according to the cultural concept that children were a symbol of fortune, Pakistani women were more at risk due to childbearing. Dr. Nazia believed it was essential to educate fellow Pakistanis on dietary hazards and raise awareness on leading an active and healthy life, especially among the women.  
According to Dr. Nazia, Pakistani men suffered more from occupation-related accidents, such as in construction sites, as little attention had been paid to safety in the workplace. Moreover, Pakistani children in Hong Kong were often obese because they consumed lots of junk food and frequented fast food shops.
Dr. Nazia continued her presentation by discussing the socio-economic factors affecting the Pakistanis’ healthcare seeking behavior. Language was a big problem, as not all Pakistanis in Hong Kong could speak and understand Cantonese and English. Even if they know these languages, it may not be good enough to communicate in medical terms. Dr. Nazia mentioned that the interpretation services for ethnic minorities were not always satisfactory as some interpreters were not well trained. This topic was further discussed during the panel session, which will be mentioned below.
Gender was another factor especially affecting the healthcare seeking behavior of Pakistani women in Hong Kong. Muslim women preferred to have female doctors or nurses in order to follow modesty requirements in regard to opposite sex. However, in Hong Kong, doctors and nurses were often males. Muslim women would feel very uncomfortable if a male doctor conducted prenatal checkup on them. Dr. Nazia advised the government should pay more efforts in training female doctors and to create a user-friendly environment to help all patients with their needs. On the other hand, it was a tradition for Muslim baby boys to be circumcised at the earliest. However, most doctors in Hong Kong had little awareness of this and were not trained about circumcision. It usually took a long time to wait for circumcision in public hospitals, while the fee in private hospitals was high. Compared to the United States, where circumcision was routinely done to meet the religious need of the Jewish faith, Dr. Nazia suggested that the Hong Kong government could pay more attention to the special needs of ethnic minorities.
Following a short break, a panel discussion was carried out. Dr. Nazia was joined by Ms. Asma Batool, a Community Health Officer in South Asian Health Support Program United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service, who gave us some ideas on the limitations of clinics in Hong Kong, for example, the lack of prayer rooms, and lack of nursing facilities. Ms. Batool believed that there should be more cultural sensitivity training for frontline doctors and nurses.  
Panel discussion
The focus of discussion then turned to interpretation services for ethnic minorities, and everyone actively expressed their opinions. Some in the audience questioned the effectiveness of interpretation services as these were seen to be passive action as patients needed to get approval from the hospitals in advance. Clinic staff often asked out-patients to bring family members or friends who know Cantonese to translate for them. Moreover, interpretation in the emergency room was not available. Some patients even did not know how to apply for the service.
Pakistani guests expressing their opinions during the panel discussion
Representatives from Hong Kong TransLingual Services (HKTS), Mr. Ryan Choi and Ms. Candy Hui, opined that the culture in public hospitals, which emphasized time and cost efficiency, has restricted the effectiveness of interpretation services. Some of the reasons why hospitals discouraged the use of interpreters were cost minimization, and limited consultation time. Mr. Choi said that as service provider, they were trying hard to monitor and improve the quality of staff. The latest statistics showed that there were 800-900 interpretation cases per month last year, and the number was increasing as more patients knew about the services. HKTS also organized talks and sharing sessions in public hospitals to promote their services and to heighten the cultural awareness of hospital staff. Lastly, Mr. Choi reminded service users to be punctual to make sure the services were properly used.
After the fruitful discussion, Prof. Tam concluded that although there were structural and other factors affecting the healthcare seeking experiences of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, many efforts had been done to improve the situation. Both healthcare service users and providers needed to know their rights and responsibilities to make the healthcare system in Hong Kong a more user-friendly and effective one.

(First Row, from left) Dr. Nazia, Ms. Batool and Prof. Tam, together with guests and participants of the Workshop

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

[Upcoming Seminar] The Role and Works of Community Artists in Hong Kong: A Global Perspective

The Role and Works of Community Artists in Hong Kong: A Global Perspective

Speaker: Samson Wong (PhD Candidate, Department of Visual Studies, Lingnan University)
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm, 13 Nov 2015 (Friday)  
Venue: Room 401, Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK


Participation plays a central role in ‘community arts’. Research into ‘community arts’ has developed over the past decade towards the expansive view of arts and cultural development, but neglected the interpersonal nature of this work and muddles artistic social engagement with other cultural activities. In this talk, Samson Wong will present the practices and views of three renowned artists specialized in facilitating participation in art making. It is proposed as a revision of basic concepts in the context of community arts, including the nature of art, community, the place of art in community and the role of the artist in community art.

Samson’s research in art in communities focuses on the community arts. He studied Arts Management and Music History & Culture at the University of Toronto. Prior to his doctoral studies, he was active as a freelancer and as a coordinator in local organization Art for All. In addition to being a saxophonist, guitarist and choir bassist throughout high school and university, his exposure in community theatre, stage and exhibition production enables him to bring together artists of different media in collaborative community art programs.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[Friday Seminar Recap] Fashion and Magical Capitalism

Fashion and Magical Capitalism

Speaker: Prof. Brian MOERAN (Visiting Professor, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Hong Kong, and Professor, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School)
Time: 4:30 – 6:00 pm, 20 Oct 2015 (Tuesday)
Venue: LT9 Yasumoto International Academic Park Chung Chi College, CUHK


Our department was grateful to have Professor Brian Moeran, the Professor of Business Anthropology at the Copenhagen Business School and currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong, to deliver a seminar on “Fashion and Magical Capitalism” on 20 October 2015. Professor Moeran is a social anthropologist and has written widely on advertising, art and aesthetics, ceramics, fashion magazines and other media forms.

Prof. Brian Moeran
Professor Moeran started the seminar by elaborating on some of the key terms, such as “fashion” and the set of terms like “magic”, “charm” and “glamour”. He mentioned that fashion is about seeing and being seen, and people nowadays are paying more and more attention to the way of being represented and representing themselves. The language of “magic” is frequently used by magazines and people in the industry, which helps to construct a reality that invites consumption. Other common practices in the industry, like finding famous stars to wear designers’ clothes, also help to enchant the way we dress. Professor Moeran emphasized that fashion focuses more on “becoming” rather than “actual being”, and he assimilated the symbolic process and the “magic” of fashion industry to Shamanism, which attempts to change states of consciousness for communication with another world.

The seminar
Professor Moeran also talked about the technologies of enchantment. For instance, advertisements in magazines use the same structure and the content always consists of “meaning of meaningless words”. With the use of “verbal spells”, the production and distribution of fashion products appear to have the power of transforming people into a new personality. People in the industry make use of skilled revelation of skilled concealment to create a magical arena, and believe that they possess the power to affect even though they are also uncertain about the mechanism. Professor Moeran emphasized that the magicians, magical representations and magical rites interact as a system, and the uncertainty principle of “magic” is real to the natives and can affect their behaviors. Professor Moeran concluded his talk by noting several economic properties of creative industriesuncertain demand, art for art’s sake, motley crew, infinite variety, and preference of one practice over another.

The attendees
More than forty people attended, and the attendees showed great interest in the seminar and asked a lot of questions. For instance, some asked how the fashion world can turn “non-believers” to “believers” of this “magical industry”. Professor Moeran raised the importance of socialization in shaping the aesthetic senses of people and making them see things in particular ways. An attendee also shared some of the similar charactistics such as the uncertainty encountered in the fashion industry in Hong Kong, and suggested that this sense of uncertainty has positive effects like enhancing the solidarity of the team.

Once again, we would like to thank Professor Moeran for delivering this inspiring seminar which gave audience anthropological insights to the fashion industry.

Monday, November 9, 2015

[Pakistani Culture Workshop] Everyday Life Challenges and Opportunities in the Neighborhood

Multiculturalism in Action 2015-16
Pakistani Culture Workshop: Making a Change for the Better
Session 3: Everyday Life Challenges and Opportunities in the Neighborhood

Mr. Minhas Rashad and Ms. Cecilia Tsui
(Services for Ethnic Minorities, HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre)

On 24 October, 2015, participants of Pakistani Culture Workshop visited Kung Yung Koon – The Dost, and Ping Lai Path to explore the history and daily experiences of the Pakistani community in Kwai Chung.

Presentations in Kung Yung Koon – The Dost
(From left) Mr. Minhas Rashad, Ms. Cecilia Tsui and Prof. Tam

Ms. Cecilia Tsui introduced the work of HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre on cultural integration in the neighborhood around Ping Lai Path. One of the most important initiatives of the Centre was the opening of Kung Yung Koon – The Dost two years ago. Designed to be a community centre to bridge local Chinese and South Asian cultures, the Dost has organized exhibitions, guided tours, workshops, and music shows etc., and allowed the public to explore the uniqueness of different cultures.

Kung Yung Koon – The Dost

Ms. Tsui also explained the revitalization project in Ping Lai Path that the Centre was responsible for. The project has aimed to improve the sitting-out area and to increase cross-cultural elements in the neighborhood. For instance, blessings in different languages would be used as decorations, emphasizing the importance of balancing the needs and interests of both Chinese and South Asian residents, as the community and its resources should be shared by all.  It was hoped that this new public space could be enjoyed and shared by people from all cultural backgrounds, and would be a way to promote cultural integration.

Mr. Minhas Rashad continued the presentation with an introduction to the Indian, Nepali and Pakistani communities in Hong Kong, explaining to our participants the different religions and habits among different South Asian groups. Geographically speaking, the Pakistani population concentrated mostly in Yuen Long, Yau-Tsim-Mong, and Kwai Tsing districts. These districts provided less expensive housing and more job opportunities.  The rapid industrial development in Kwai Chung in the 1970s attracted many Pakistani migrants to settle here for employment opportunities. Many Pakistani households have lived in Kwai Chung for more than 30 years.

The pressure of the Pakistanis in Hong Kong did not only come from learning Cantonese, Mr. Rashad said, as they usually needed to learn six to seven languages. Apart from English and Cantonese for basic communication, a Pakistani need to learn Arabic for reading Quran, and Urdu or a local dialect such as Punjabi for communication within the ethnic group. Some kids also learned French or Spanish in school as a second language to meet school requirements. 

Learning to say hello with Pakistanis

Mr. Rashad then showed us some Pakistani clothes and our participants had a chance to try wearing them. One characteristic feature of Pakistani clothing was not to show one’s body shape and not to expose too much of one’s body.
Our participant wearing hijab

In everyday life, Mr. Rashad told us, it has been a challenge for Muslims to identify halal food and products in non-Islamic states. However, with more than ¼ of the world population being Muslims, more companies had applied for their products to be halal certified. “Halal” did not only apply to fresh meat or restaurants, as we would find lots of daily necessities and food, such as toothpastes and potato chips, sold with halal certification. The Ng Fung Hong Limited as the largest supplier of fresh meat in Hong Kong, for instance, had an employee specialized in slaughtering halal meat for Muslims in Hong Kong.

Pakistanis loved cricket, said Mr. Rashad. Yet cricket in Hong Kong had remained an elite sport and many Pakistani cricket lovers could not afford to rent cricket fields or become members of the Hong Kong Cricket Club. The most common way for Pakistani youth to enjoy cricket was to find a playground in their neighborhood and play with simple kits. 
Mr. Rashad showing the cricket bat

In the guided tour, we visited a Pakistani grocery and learned about some products such as biscuits, mango juice, spices and henna, which were very popular among Pakistani as well as Chinese customers. We also learned that the mode of business in which these ethnic stores operated was quite different from Chinese stores, as Pakistani families would buy in bulk so home delivery service was essential. Monthly credit was also an important feature in the business.
Shopping in a Pakistani grocery

We then enjoyed masala tea and some snacks in a restaurant owned by a Pakistani man and his Chinese wife. Our participants continued the discussion about religion and marriage actively while enjoying afternoon tea.
Discussion in the halal restaurant

One important point we discussed was the small-scale mosque located in a flat in Ping Lai Path. As Mr. Rashad explained, the mosque was supported by the Pakistani community nearby, whose donations helped to pay the rent and the salary of the Imam. As bigger mosques in Hong Kong were located in Kowloon, Wan Chai, Central, Stanley, and Chai Wan, Mr. Rashad said these were too far away for the Muslim children here, as they had to travel after school to learn the Quran. That was the reason why the Pakistanis in Kwai Chung decided to run a mosque as a way to meet the needs of the Muslims in this district.  

Pakistani children in the neighborhood, after their Quran lesson in the mosque

Participants had a lot to take home after this seminar – not only information and insiders’ perspectives on life as an ethnic minority here, but also fond memories of the great-tasting snacks: pakora, aloo naan, chicken masala, and milk tea. Yum!

Pakora, chicken masala, and aloo naan