We refugees should not remain passive as others label us with their lies. This has become more problematic over the ten years I have been stranded in Hong Kong. If refugees don’t speak up, who will understand our difficulties and support our struggle? I believe we should connect directly with citizens, liaise more and share about ourselves and learn about residents. Like it or not, we are part of ONE COMMUNITY.
Few will deny that refugees are negatively portrayed in the mainstream media by government propaganda which constructs stereotypes, spreads prejudice and condones discrimination. To counter this negativity, refugees must create a platform of exchange that including people with different backgrounds of ethnicity, religion and language. We cannot remain silent.
Communication is the answer. We need to share our stories and tell other people about our culture, what defines us in the global community and in the place we call home today. My experience teaches me that citizens are generally very interested to learn about our culture heritage and ethnic diversity.
When presented with the right opportunity, residents are curious about refugees and ready to bridge the artificial and unnatural gap create by immigration laws – which by the way don’t make sense to everyone. How much do locals know about the lives and traditions refugees follow? How many have visited the countries we come from? How can refugees win hearts and minds?
By sharing our experiences and telling our stories, we can open their eyes to a broader worldview. We can foster understanding and encourage integration through getting to know one another. This is the true Spirit of Globalization, where every village connects amicably and collaborates fairly. It is a fact that more Hong Kong ladies are marrying refugees than ever before.
At times it may be deeply personal and emotional, but that is the nature of friendship. Residents need to get an idea of what we feel and we need to open our hearts to them. Communication is a two-way street. It is talking and listening at a deeper, trusting level. I encourage refugees to unite and reach out to the community to form friendships. It is a civilized response to the hatred and division flamed by the government.
To overcome discrimination, the Refugee Union should firstly promote greater collaboration and self-reflection with its members. Admittedly much needs to be done in this respect. We should then focus on the positives we offer, on the contribution we already make and the potential we have as an organized, empowered family.
There is clearly a need for assistance, fundraising and advocacy, but we must also endeavour to give something back to the community and create more harmony. Let’s not forget we enjoy Freedom of Speech, so it’s our duty to assure refugees have a proper voice in Hong Kong. It has been said before: Refugees are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The brightest light sometimes comes from the darkest places.
The Home Affairs Bureau holds a “Recognition scheme for the provision of pro bono legal services. Several Refugee Union members were honored to be invited by a lawyer to attend the award presentation ceremony where the voluntary work of almost 300 lawyers was publicly recognized.
It came as a surprise that indeed Hong Kong Government recognizes the noble effort of lawyers who help the underprivileged to access justice. One only has to consider China where the legal sector and the Government are often in confrontation that result in crackdowns and detention of some lawyers considered enemies of the state. By contrast, Hong Kong is an excellent example of the government encouraging voluntary work to help the vulnerable.
It was an impressive display of humanitarianism. The majority of recipients were Chinese who offered a considerable amount of their professional time to assist the needy and the poor in the community. One would have imagined that most of the recipients would be foreign lawyers. I was impressed by the composition, noting however that only 25 hours are required to qualify.
For refugees such invitations are rare to come. Nonetheless our community knows very well and appreciate the importance of pro bono legal assistance. We owe these lawyers countless gratitude, as without them the asylum environment would be more repressive. With the help of these learned friends, refugees continued to make significant progress pushing the envelope in the name of justice.
With the assistance of the legal fraternity, refugees have not shied away from fighting and advocating for their often trampled upon rights. Further, the Refugee Union has provided a platform where we can freely articulate issues affecting our community. Despite our dubious immigration status, unionized refugees are taking legal advice on countering harsh government policies aimed at shackling us in destitution and despair.
We challenge government policies in the courts with at times positive results. Therefore on this day refugees applauded the lawyers of the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law Society who have over the years offered their voluntary services to advise and protect refugees.
The Refugee Union expresses its heartfelt gratitude to all lawyers who offer pro bono services.