Sunday, 9 August 2009

English in Hong Kong

US visitor to Hong Kong Victor Ho says “In the US highly qualified Asian executives are never promoted beyond middle management.“ (Differing views on the importance of English in Hong Kong, Aug 8).
That is incorrect.  In the list of Fortune 500 companies I counted 16 Asian CEOs, 3.2% of the total.  The Asian population of the US is about 4.4%,  so there is a slight underrepresentation, but hardly the “glass ceiling” of which Ho complains.  And it is simply not true that Asians are “never promoted”.  
Ho says the “rationale” for the “glass ceiling” is “because we [Asians] are quiet and soft [sic] spoken”.  If a non-Asian made that claim it would rightly be judged an ignorant and racist stereotype.  It is equally ignorant coming from a US-based Asian; Ho has clearly never been to a Hong Kong restaurant at festival time.
Ho’s muddled thinking somehow leads him to the conclusion that English is not important.  True, it may not be the only, or even the major, reason for Hong Kong’s success.  But is one of our Unique Selling Propositions.  It is one that our Motherland is eagerly embracing.  Why would we want to ditch it?