Hong Kong’s equal opportunities watchdog has called for more sensitivity towards ethnic minority cultures after the use of an Islamic expression by anti-government protesters caused offence in the local Muslim community.
Ricky Chu Man-kin, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said on Saturday that Muslims had looked him up in person to share their concerns about the phrase “Allah is the Greatest” being painted in Arabic on some roads.
“You cannot just write these words on facilities and roads as vehicles will run over them when passing or they may even be trampled on,” he said.
Chu said those who contacted him had felt emotional about their culture not being respected.
He said he was told the words were found in Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui one night. Why they were used was not clear.
On Friday, the commission issued a statement calling for the public to respect one another’s cultures and refrain from insulting acts.
“The commission calls on all parties to show empathy to others when expressing their views and opinions,” the statement read.
Chu said besides ethnic minority groups, many people with disabilities had also reflected their worries over the damage being caused to facilities during the increasingly violent anti-government protests which have rocked Hong Kong for more than four months.
“Our society is made up of different people with many who are underprivileged,” he said. “I hope we can have more empathy to safeguard the rights of the underprivileged.”
For example, he noted that because of damaged MTR stations and traffic lights, commuting had become difficult for the disabled while those with more serious conditions did not want or were not able to go out.
Jason Ho Ka-leung, vice-president of the Hong Kong Blind Union, said that while he understood some people were using different means to express their dissatisfaction, the damage to facilities made it inconvenient for the visually impaired.
“For example, without traffic lights that have audio signals, it is difficult for the blind to cross roads with heavy traffic as there might not be underpasses or bridges,” he said.
Chu also said the commission had received more than 100 queries, but no formal complaints, on whether protesters had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted by police during enforcement actions.
The commission said it also received queries about protesters directing obscene comments or verbal abuse of a sexual nature at female police officers.
It said that since such allegations could be of a wide range, it had to obtain detailed information on the cases before deciding how to follow up. Chu added the commission was willing to meet those affected but no one had come forward and it was difficult to just look at photos and videos.