By Refugee Union

For the last few months, refugees have been the target of what appears to be an orchestrated media campaign to put us in a bad light. The media are pushing and promoting anti-refugee rhetoric to the extent that it has spread widely among the local population. A sense of crisis has been artificially created, despite refugees having been in Hong Kong for over a decade. In our view, the only “crisis” that exists is the government’s lack of effort to protect refugees and extend human rights to the refugee community.

The truth is that most refugees depart from their loved ones, good jobs, families, friends and a place they called home to seek safety and security, political and economic. That journey, however, ends with us being received with suspicion, indifference and contempt. We all know that among us are a few who only come to Hong Kong to seek greener pastures. Yet this does not give Hong Kong the right to condemn us as a group. We deserve a fair hearing.

hong kong refugees
A Hong Kong refugee slum. Photo: Emmanuel Serna.

We believe it is hypocritical to resort to a strategy of maligning us to deflect the attention of Hong Kong citizens from real issues. For example, this is an election year – could you be whipping up nationalistic emotions with the locals to win an election? Would politicians stoop so low as to use the most vulnerable and poor members of this society to push a political agenda? Could refugees be pawns in a game? Why does the government and its agents heap blame on refugees, when they are the ones in control?

Instead of looking at the systemic failures of the Unified Screening Mechanism (USM) — which is supposed to resolve the status of refugees swiftly — and coming up with durable solutions to fix the problem, an easier route has been chosen: to blame the victims. Refugee Union has said it again and again, the USM system is fake. It has failed to ensure the high standards of fairness it promised. You have to wonder if the USM system was designed to fail, so that – after a period – it would cause more confusion and misunderstandings than there were when it started. The real and hard question is, who is benefiting when such an important tool of screening is turned into a farce?

banners anti-refugee
The top banner above reads, “Among 8,000 applicants, only 40 cases have been established, which means 99 percent of the applicants were fake refugees. Build closed refugee camps ASAP and put a stop to fake refugees.” Photo: Photo: 李梓敬 / Facebook.

The government does not need to activate such an elaborate machine to fight the helpless refugee community. We are a weak, poor and disadvantaged lot. We own nothing, we have nothing, other than hope. It is this hope that it is now under attack. The negative campaign of hate is creating a wedge between us and local communities, and among us refugees. It has thrown us into the deep pits of uncertainty, anxiety, fear and despair. Refugees now feel so insecure that peace of mind has become impossible. We live in fear of xenophobia and extremism. What is this, if it’s not torture?

refugees hong kong
Photo: Vision First.

We believe that this is a deliberate strategy to allow the government to avoid its responsibilities to the refugee community, by destroying our lives and denying us rights as human beings.  The Chief Executive triggered this debate during his policy address and his supporters took the cue. Street campaigns have sprung up with banners demonising and spreading a message of hate and abuse about refugees in Hong Kong. We have been labelled as rapists, thieves, drug dealers, peddlers, prostitutes and opportunists who do not have inherent right to reside in this city. Passionate calls have been made to deport all refugees from Hong Kong.

As if that’s not enough, the proponents of this hate campaign are now calling for our detention in camps in order to curtail the only freedom we still enjoy. Persecution of refugees should stop immediately. This campaign can only end badly for Hong Kong. We are the first to experience the vindictive hostility of the government. But who will be next after we are gone?

Guest contributors for Hong Kong Free Press.