Nepali Newspaper Gives Voice to Hong Kong's Neglected Minorities

This article by Feifei originally appeared on on February 21, 2013 in Chinese. It is translated with some contextual explanation by Ronald Yick and republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

There are approximately 451,000 ethnic minorities currently living in Hong Kong, of which more than 63,000 are from South Asia (India, Pakistan and Nepal), according to the 2011 government population census [pdf]. Most of them do not understand Chinese, the most popular language in the city alongside English. With no radio or television channels for ethnic minority communities, it is difficult for them to access local news and be informed of current issues. At the same time, mainstream media and society at large pay them little heed.

Missing voices in Hong Kong

Some ethnic minorities decide to run their own media, making news reports for their countrymen and bridging the gap among different ethnic groups. The Nepali ethnic group is one of the largest to run their own publications. Currently, there are three Nepali newspapers in Hong Kong. One of them is called Ethnic Voice. Published weekly, it contains both Nepali- and English-language reporting, and has a YouTube channel. The weekly newspaper also runs a workshop and encourages Nepalis to become citizen journalists.

Pun Magar J. B., editor-in-chief of Ethnic Voices

Pun Magar J.B., editor-in-chief of Ethnic Voice

J.B., the editor-in-chief of Ethnic Voice, obtained his master’s degree in journalism in Nepal. He has many years of experience in television and radio broadcasting. One year ago, a friend invited him to Hong Kong to start Ethnic Voice. Located in the Jordan district, the newspaper employs Hong Kong students to do translation on a part-time basis. Local Nepali people are the target audience. They can buy it for 5 Hong Kong dollars (0.64 US dollars) from more than 100 grocery stores run by ethnic minorities. “Nepali people will not read information which is free. They prefer reading what they buy,” J.B. explained.

Many Nepali were Gurkhas who served in the British Army units in Hong Kong until its return to China. The soliders and their families used to live in places where the barracks were located, but later spread to other districts.

Independent media fosters social change

J.B. believes that an independent media can drive social change. For him, creating dialogue through newspaper publication is one of the ways to get ethnic minorities involved in society. Ethnic Voice is primarily written in Nepali with some English, too. Nepali is used to cover issues surrounding Nepali in Hong Kong. When the news covers local politics and ethnic minorities, it is reported in English. Such an arrangement enhances mutual understanding.

The newspaper publishes between 1,000 and 5,000 copies per week. It has even attracted a jewelry company to advertise. “That company thinks that what we have done is meaningful, and wants to do something for their community. When I asked for advertising, they quickly agreed,” J.B. explained. The newspaper has received wide recognition in the community. During our interview in Jordan district, many people stopped to greet him.

Grocery stores run by ethnic minorities are major distribution outlets for Ethnic Voices.

Grocery stores run by ethnic minorities are major distribution outlets for Ethnic Voice

There have been few opportunities for the Hong Kong government, the local Chinese, and ethnic minorities to communicate face-to-face in the city. Ethnic Voice tries to be the link. For example, J.B intentionally sends the newspaper to local political parties and other ethnic groups. He even asked public libraries to subscribe to the newspaper to increase readership, but failed because of the complicated administrative procedures.

Mainstream prejudice against ethnic minorities

J.B. said that when local media reports news about South Asian countries, the news is often misleading since local reporters do not have sufficient understanding of the context. As such, Hong Kong people are prone to skewed or even discriminatory views against South Asians. J.B remembers a local newspaper once used the term “ethnic conflict” in a headline used to describe a dispute between two people.

J.B. pointed out that most Nepali in Hong Kong have to work very long hours to make ends meet and consequently their political awareness is not strong. They rarely show interest in current affairs or government policies, or for that matter, minority rights campaigns. The government tends to neglect ethnic minorities, while the minorities have little intention to connect with the society. J.B. hopes that the Hong Kong government can provide support services to facilitate involvement in the broader community in order to reduce discrimination. He also hopes to see South Asians show solidarity and speak out for themselves.

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