BLOG – Is White Privilege Alive & Well in Hong Kong?

A five-minute video doing the rounds today shows a foreigner, ‘Donnie Does’, barging his way into the Rugby Sevens without a ticket. At one point, he boasts “I don’t pay for organised events in China”

He tells flustered security staff that he is “not trying to sneak in, that’s crazy. Unbelievable.”

Is it a case of harmless, perhaps even praiseworthy, blagging? On Reddit, the video raised questions about white privilege in Hong Kong and whether he would’ve gotten away with it were he of a different ethnicity.

In an eye-opening 2013 documentary, by Jody-Lan Castle, District Councillor Paul Zimmerman says that there remains a “very strong hierarchy” in Hong Kong, with white people at the top. [at 2:20]

22 thoughts on “BLOG – Is White Privilege Alive & Well in Hong Kong?

  • Ken Morgan

    He isn’t wrong white privilege in Hong Kong is pretty strong. I’ve been performing an experiment recently trying to get a job (I am a UK licensed teacher with 8 years work experience). I also exist as Mr Ken Morgan with nothing more than a CELTA… guess which one gets more responses? I am not just talking about English teaching jobs either.

    Currently after one month I have applied to 47 jobs. Mr Ken Morgan has 38 responses even for jobs Mr Morgan is completely unqualified for. Mr (my real Chinese name) currently has 0 responses even though my real identity is considerably more qualified and experienced.

    Heh just look at reddit the best time to apply for teaching jobs in HK is when you are white.

  • Chackie

    Amen to that. Look at the many international schools website of their teachers. It’s nothing but white. In no offence to them.
    It’s all over Hong Kong

  • plasticvicar

    The interesting thing about the Rugby Sevens was the many of the white referees are current and former police officers who are in their late 40s and 50s. Whenever a fight broke out in the South Stand between a bunch of drunk white guys, guess who were the first to jump into the brawl, separate and restrain the drunk idiots and throw them out the stadium?

    Hint: not the uniformed local officers.

    The great oddity that is Hong Kong’s white privilege is that its the locals who put the whites on a pedestal that they entirely do not deserve, not the whites oppressing all the others like in say the US. As a racially ambiguous looking Eurasian dude who can basically play the role of both local and expat, this is something that has always confused me greatly.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    Ken Morgan can speak fluent Cantonese and read and write Chinese? No wonder he has better options.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    I don’t think this has to do with white privilege. There were obvious attempts by staff to stop the guy. 7 by my count. But he went forward. This has more to do with HK’s pacifism in the face of the man’s unrelenting push to enter. I’ve seen Asian foreigners do the same to gain entry elsewhere (bars, clubs, music shows) equally with whites with the same success.
    Were staff going to stop him, risk an altercation and an argument with a possibly inebriated man? No, it’s not worth their pay and the venue screwed up by not having the adequate security at this entry point. That’s how HK is, independent of the colour of the skin of the person pushing.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    My Saturday Chinese school staff in Canada was nothing but Chinese. No offence to white people, but I can understand why there wouldn’t be much of a market for people learning Chinese from white people. unless you’re DaShan (Mark Roswell).
    But it is unfair for HKers who have equal competency and qualifications as foreigners. In some ways HK is too supportive of some immigrants / expats.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    Women police officers engage with female civilians. Why is it surprising that non-Chinese police engage with bunches of non-Chinese guys?
    And how is that indicative of white privilege?

    So-called “whites” are the ones who built (and tried to defend) HK. Locals don’t forget that. Nor are they oblivious to the effect of mainlanders on HK, or avoid attaching stereotypes to these. Compare local views on civility (and sophistication) of mainlanders and foreigners and it should become more clear.
    But that’s the problem with generalisations and stereotypes. Not everyone fits the mold and exceptions and outliers redefine the middle.
    But that doesn’t mean there isn’t racism against whites in HK. Many locals avoid and dislike whites/foreigners. But it seems, to me at least, the respect is there. From both sides. At least when alcohol and a rugby game isn’t involved.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    I want to know more about these ‘responses’.
    So the Mr. Morgan character got responses. Not job offers. Responses can mean a question, like “do you need a visa to work here? are you already in HK?” etc.
    When I was doing hiring in HK, often I would have to inquire with foreigners to find out if they need a visa, because often they sidestepped that important detail in their applications. And to complete their application for my committee’s review, I needed all the information, which locals were usually good at providing.
    So yes, I myself would probably make this distinction and “respond” to Mr. Morgan.

  • plasticvicar

    The privilege comes from the fact that if the security guard in the video was white, Donnie wouldve gotten his ass beaten, thrown out and banned from the Sevens for trespassing. If Donnie were a mainlander the same wouldve happened regardless of who the security guard was, instead as we noticed he was able to walk right in.

    Ive seen too many cases where foreigners were allowed to run amok and do whatever they want because the police did not find it worth the hassle to deal with the language differences.

    Obviously this could be dealt with if Hong Kong had more English speaking police officers but since 97 no foreign officers have been hired and those who are left number less than a hundred with most of them retiring this year.

  • Shum

    Its English-speaking privilege. Try being inebriated, forcing your way in and doing the same in Cantonese. 9/10 times the old ladies would have called for back-up, followed the dude, etc.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    What if it was a non-white doing the exactly same thing.

    Also, yes I’ve met a white police officer who was hired after 97. He grew up in HK and speaks Cantonese. If a white person meets the criteria, they’ll get in, like those of Indian descent I’ve met. But they generally don’t meet the criteria, or apply.

  • Bastien 偉忠 Wai-Chung

    White privilege isn’t about the language you speak but the colour of the skin (white). That white people (generally) don’t speak English doesn’t really apply here.

  • Shum

    Yes, that is true. In that case, one would probably argue for both white and English-speaking privilege then. If a white Russian-speaking dude did the same thing in the video, we’d probably get the same results too.

  • Ken Morgan

    Updating (Ken Morgan the fake alter ego I created does not speak any Chinese or read any either my real identity does). Ken Morgan received 52 requests to attend an interview.

    My real identity with qualifications and work experience received zero responses.

    White face trumps ALL qualifications.

  • Simon

    It’s weird as I thought it would be worst in the states, but we are more open about things so you hear about it. I moved here years ago and it’s one of the most racist cities I have seen when it comes to my colored friends. Personalyy I get an unfair advantage by being white here, in both professional and social circumstances. It’s rare for any of my Caucasian colleagues to acknowledge this though, they just like to ride the tide and that’s when you get the arrogant “gweilo” types.
    I feel really bad for my south Asian and black friends as even if theyare super qualified, westernized and good looking, they get put down here :/
    It’s all hushed so takes some digging but it’s sad to see how widespread it is, unfortunately it’s worst than anywhere else I’ve been but I see the seeds of change everyday!

  • rithipol

    The sad truth is that quite a number of locals hold East Asians to a much higher standard than they do “Westerners” (= white ppl). I have friends who work in the English education sector who are native speakers of English (Canadian- and UK-born Chinese) and have to feign not knowing any Cantonese in order to maintain their good standing as an English teacher in Hong Kong. Their employers and students earnestly believe that knowing Chinese makes a teacher worse at English. Meanwhile, their older coworkers will talk smack about them in Cantonese within an earshot, as if they don’t understand. People need to stop being so ignorant…and school administrators, of all people…

  • brenna

    white privilege,

     hate crime,

     affirmative action,

     segregation,

     immigration,

     social movements, or

     relative deprivation.

    i need to know these things about the chinese architecture? please help

  • Aaron Poisel

    Before we hastily render this as yet another example of WP, why not examine Asian privilege here in the USA, and then draw parallels between the two. I needn’t continue, folks. If anything, preferential hiring practices predicated on the profession seems the likely culprit. Nothing to see here.

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