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恐懼政治的社會代價

2016/9/3 — 19:42

歐洲難民潮持續,大量難民在地中海船難中死亡。上年九月,有攝影師拍到一名敘利亞男童伏屍土耳其一沙灘上,引發網上極大迴響。部分報章更明言,希望透過相片引發大眾關注難民情況。作者在本文文末問:還記得那個名叫Alan Kurdi 的敍利亞小孩,伏屍在地中海海岸的影象嗎?

歐洲難民潮持續,大量難民在地中海船難中死亡。上年九月,有攝影師拍到一名敘利亞男童伏屍土耳其一沙灘上,引發網上極大迴響。部分報章更明言,希望透過相片引發大眾關注難民情況。作者在本文文末問:還記得那個名叫Alan Kurdi 的敍利亞小孩,伏屍在地中海海岸的影象嗎?

【文:Justice Centre Hong Kong 】

英國脫歐一事給我們最大的啟示,就是政治工程的影響往往無法逆轉。距離香港立法會選舉還兩日多,一個公投或選舉對社會的影響,不只限於選舉結果。以分化社會各群體為策略的選舉工程可以造成長遠傷害。唔信?美國人現在應該身同感受。

今個星期,聯合國消除種族歧視委員會在脫歐後發表報告,專家組成的委員會形容,整個脫歐的選舉工程「充滿分化、反移民、排外的言論和修辭」。報告亦狠批知名的政治人物「不但沒有譴責(這種言論),更反過來製造和深化各種的偏見…」,從而「壯大」了公眾對少數族裔的騷擾和仇恨罪行。

廣告

脫歐派在公投期間志在製造恐慌和反移民的宣傳,令英國成為仇恨的溫床,向各個角落傳染開去。公投揭盅後,英國出現大規模針對移民及少數群體的騷擾事件。警方在投票前後一星期接到三千多宗與種族相關的罪案報告,比去年多出百分之四十二。

無獨有偶,美國總統候選人特朗普口沒遮攔的作風,將美國政治倫理水平拉到新低點。他不斷抹黑移民為「強姦犯」、「罪犯」,聲言上任第一件事是遣返過百萬移民;並嘲笑女性和殘疾人士。口出狂言使特朗普成為白人優越主義的新寵,但對大部分選民來說,他的「願景」令人擔憂。

廣告

政府誇大難民問題 指控沒有事實根據

也許你已經察覺,香港某些政黨已經開始「追英趕美」,在輿論平台肆無忌憚高舉反移民和排外口號。這些政黨打出反移民牌,可能只是想在選舉年內吸票。爭奪議席的動機,卻隨時能破壞香港多年來走向社會共融、多元文化的康莊大道。

這一年,Justice Centre 與少數族裔、難民及外傭團體觀察到,香港政府大幅地改變它對難民群體的評論。由過往以中性的「免遣返聲請者」統稱難民,到現在以種族區分去稱呼為「非華裔非法入境者」,並經常將他們與罪案扯上關係。

過去半年,政府新聞處有關聲請者及尋求庇護人士的新聞稿數量飆升,以每星期數次的頻率公佈聲請者涉及罪案或濫用聲請制度。

儘管保安局的文件顯示(),正等候當局審批免遣返聲請人士,只是由2015年12月累計的10,922人輕微上升至2016年4月的11,178人,政府依然負面地大造文章。

另一方面,有些傳媒亦加入扭曲輿論的行列,不合比例地報導難民的負面消息。其中一家傳媒,在2016年頭六個月對難民的報導,比起它2015年全年的報導多出8.8倍,而將「難民」與「罪案」扯上關係的報導,更是多出13.27倍,扭曲公眾對難民的觀感。社交網站亦成為另一煽動種族暴力的平台,有多個專頁及群組中傷難民、移民,以至整體少數族裔社群。

政府數字顯示,2015年1月有95名「非華裔持行街紙人士」涉嚴重罪案被捕 (2016年1月數字為87名),這個數字只佔香港整體嚴重罪案的3.55%,意味絕大部份犯案者為本地居民。再者,政府公佈的統計只包括拘捕的數字,這批疑犯有多少人被定罪呢?Justice Centre 曾經向相關部門查問,卻未曾收到定罪統計。政府只提供懷疑犯罪而非證明有罪人士的數字,令人擔憂。政府以嚴厲的措辭聲稱「非法移民」令治安惡化、危害公共及社會秩序、引起公眾關注;政黨在街頭上掛上反難民反移民的橫額,在宣傳單紙上指責難民和移民涉及暴力罪行。然而,這些指控根本沒有事實根據,沒有可靠的數據支持。

英語有”gutter politics”這個名詞, 意指透過抹黑、煽動恐慌情緒取得選票,正正恰當形容香港現時的情況。

2015年1月至2016年2月按月因涉嫌干犯「嚴重罪行」而被拘捕的「非華裔持行街紙人士」數字

2015年1月至2016年2月按月因涉嫌干犯「嚴重罪行」而被拘捕的「非華裔持行街紙人士」數字

訴諸恐懼 只會加深種族仇恨

今年四月,超過150個團體及名人聯署呼籲各界停止抹黑,冷靜討論香港難民政策。一些政黨及政治人物回應,他們「並非種族歧視,只是覺得有些『壞』的少數族裔玷污了另一些『好』的少數群體的形象」。有難民曾向我們傾訴,他們額頭沒有刻住「難民」兩字,如要鼓動反難民情緒,等於向任何外表不同的人散播種族歧視,不論他們是否在香港出生、難民、經濟移民(包括在某些人眼中社會地位較高的移民)。

聯合國種族歧視委員會指出政府、政治人物、傳媒有責任向公眾提供準確的資訊,以消除社會對不同種族的偏見,而非煽動偏見。香港政府、部份政黨及傳媒卻似乎背道而馳。基於誤導的資訊,有輿論要求香港設置難民禁閉營,甚至退出《聯合國酷刑公約》。然而,多國經驗都顯示禁閉營只會對公帑造成更多負擔及對難民造成心理傷害;而《酷刑公約》是用來保護香港的所有居民。

日前,香港教育大學亞洲政策及研究學系發表調查,指只有4.7%受訪市民對難民及尋求庇護人士有正面印象,有三分二持負面印象的市民覺得「社會不安全」。近乎所有人指他們從大眾傳媒接收關於難民的資訊。然而,近半數的受訪者承認他們並不了解難民議題,八成覺得香港人需要更了解其他族裔。

這個調查正正顯示,政府有責任滿足市民的需求,提升市民對難民、移民及少數族群的認識,推動不同種族間的互相尊重。

民主與多元主義乃相輔相成。無論在甚麼地方,我們都要審視那些銳意分化社會群體的政治人物,在選舉中向弱者抽刃可能很有效,但這會帶來什麼代價呢?今日邊緣化無權者,他日仇恨的情緒也會找上其他人的門。

還記得一年前,那個名叫Alan Kurdi 的敍利亞小孩,伏屍在地中海海岸的影象嗎?

記得當時人們攜手協力幫助那些無辜地捲入戰亂、無辜受迫害的難民嗎?

尼日利亞作家Chimananda Ngozi Adichie在上星期的國際人權日說:「無人只是一個難民,無人只是一件物件」他們曾經是天真瀾漫的小孩、他們有過自己的家庭、有自己的生活、有自己的人生經歷。因為種種原因他們被迫流離失所、成為渴望找到一個安身之所的人。投機政客要製造難民片面的印象,選民不應被他們蒙蔽。

 

English Version:

From Brexit to these LegCo elections, political fear-mongering is a disturbing trend that will cause long-term harm

As many people in post-“Brexit” UK have learnt, however much we may wish it so, in politics you can’t always turn back the clock. And let’s not forget - elections aren’t simply about the results – divisive political campaigns themselves can be bruising, leaving lasting damage to society. Just ask voters in the United States.

This week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sent a strong message to UK politicians following the “Brexit” campaign. In its Concluding Observations to the United Kingdom, the UN human rights expert body showed deep concern that the campaign was “marked by divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric”, and went on to blame prominent political figures for “not only failing to condemn… but also creating and entrenching prejudices”, thereby “emboldening” members of the public to carry out acts of intimidation and hate crimes towards minority groups.

Unfortunately for the UK, the damage has already been done – there has been an “epidemic of hate”, the bitter fruit borne of months of fear-mongering and anti-migrant campaigning by the “Vote Leave” camp. Just hours after the referendum, a wave of incidences of racial abuse and harassment of migrants and minorities was reported; these have only proliferated since. In fact, more than 3,000 allegations of hate crimes were made to the police in the week before and after the vote, a 42% increase from the year before.

In similar vein in the United States, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been relentless – lowering the ethical bar to levels never seen before in American politics. He has repeatedly called “illegal immigrants” in the United States “rapists” and “criminals” and just yesterday vowed to deport millions of people during his “first hour in office.” He has targeted not only migrants, but mocked women and people with disabilities. It is no surprise that White Supremacists in the United States have rallied around him. However, for most of the electorate, his dark view of America is unsettling.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because we are seeing similar trends in Hong Kong. Certain political factions are rallying around anti-immigrant, xenophobic slogans. Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, these tactics have gone almost completely unchallenged. While the intention may be the short-term aim of capturing votes for elections on Sunday, we are at risk of unpicking Hong Kong’s progress in promoting social harmony, multiculturalism and racial tolerance for years to come.

For over a year, Justice Centre and other ethnic minority, refugee and migrant-serving organizations have noted a marked shift in the discourse of the HKSAR Administration. It has moved from referring to refugees in neutral terms as “non-refoulement claimants” to employing specifically ethnic terms (“non-Chinese illegal immigrant” or “NECII”), often invoking criminality. We have documented a large increase in the volume of press releases issued by the government about protection claimants and those seeking asylum; in the past six months in particular, several are issued a week and these focus exclusively on crime and abuse of the system.

At the same time, we have seen a sharp increase in the level of press coverage, mostly negative, towards refugees and “illegal immigrants” (the two terms are often conflated). For example, from December 2015 to April 2016, according to a government paper (although there is no public statistical database), there was an increase in the backlog of protection claims from 10,922 to 11,178 – a change of 2.34%. On the face of it, this is a small increase and hardly merits much attention.

However, our research shows that in one local media outlet, for example, the total number of articles with the word “refugee” in 2015, compared to the first half of 2016, increased by 880% and the number of articles about “refugees” and “crime” rose by 1,327%. This is completely out of proportion and distorts the perception amongst the public.

Its then not especially surprising that several social media groups have grown up, whose online forums include comments that amount to incitement to violence and racial vilification – not just towards refugees and migrants, but towards ethnic minorities generally.

 When Justice Centre has requested crime statistics, what we have found is that the total number of “non-ethnic Chinese illegal immigrants on recognizance” arrested for “serious crimes” was 95 in January 2015 and 87 in January 2016. This is just a fraction of the cases of serious crimes – 3.55% in 2015 to be exact – with the vast majority being committed by Hong Kong residents. Worryingly, only statistics on number of arrests, and not the number of prosecutions or actual convictions, are provided or reported, essentially only telling us about people suspected to be guilty, but not proven to be so, despite us asking for this.

What this does show is that there is currently no reliable evidential basis to support claims about refugees and so-called “illegal immigrants” being involved in any spike in serious crime. Yet policy papers about claimants reiterate that “illegal immigrants” have caused a worsening crime situation; that they pose a threat to “social and public order”, and that this has caused “considerable public concern”. This is powerful language for any government to use. Likewise, some political parties have created campaign materials and public banners making strong accusations about refugees and migrants in relation to violent crime in particular. What is going on?

Sadly, the answer appears to be gutter politics – using negative stereotyping and fear-mongering to grab votes.

Number of “NECII on recognizance arrested” (Jan 2015-Feb 2016) by month for “serious crimes”

Number of “NECII on recognizance arrested” (Jan 2015-Feb 2016) by month for “serious crimes”

This escalation in discriminatory language prompted more than 150 civil society organisations and prominent individuals in the community to sign a joint statement in April calling for a stop to discrimination and calm on the refugee debate. In response to this statement, some political parties and public figures stated that they were not racist, but rather, they felt the so-called “bad” ethnic minorities were unfairly tarnishing the reputation of the “good” ethnic minorities.

But as a refugee once put it to me quite bluntly, there is no post-it note on refugees’ foreheads saying that they are seeking asylum. And this means that if you foster and agitate anti-refugee sentiment, it bleeds into racism and generalised discrimination towards anyone who looks different – whether they happen to be a Hong Kong citizens, a refugee, or an economic migrant (“expats” included).

As the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination noted, governments, politicians and the media should be providing the public with accurate information to combat prejudices rather than fuelling them. But what our documentation and media mapping appear to show is that the opposite may be happening.

The effects of all of this are already showing. The focus on crime and a “surge” in claims has created support for regressive proposals to reinstate detention camps and even pull Hong Kong out of the UN Convention against Torture – a fundamental international human rights treaty. This is despite the fact that the financial costs and psychological harm of detention centres in other countries have been well-documented, and that UN CAT protects the rights of all people in the HKSAR territory.

A poll released a couple of days ago by the Department of Asian and Policy Studies has found that only 4.7% surveyed held positive views towards asylum-seekers and refugees. Of those who had a negative opinion, almost two-thirds cited that they felt “society was unsafe”. Nonetheless, almost half admitted that they did not know much information about asylum seekers and refugees, and 80.7% agreed with the statement that Hong Kong people need to know more about other ethnic groups. Almost all reported that they receive information on these issues from the media.

These figures are sobering, yet they offer a glimmer of hope. The answers by those polled show that Hong Kong people want to learn more about minority groups. It is therefore the duty of governments to promote a culture of respect and to raise awareness and understanding about refugees, migrants and ethnic minorities.

Democracy and respect for multiculturalism go hand-in-hand. We should always be wary of politicians – anywhere – who try to bring division and intolerance into mainstream politics. In the lifetime of one election it might seem like an easy strategy to scape-goat vulnerable groups, but at what price? If we look around, we can see that picking on the marginalised and powerless in society causes long lasting harm and division to the detriment of all of us.

Exactly, one year ago, a haunting image of a Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, washed up on Europe’s shores, galvanized citizens around the world to help people who are the innocent victims of conflict and persecution. A refugee is that boy, a refugee is a person, with a story, a life, a family, accomplishments, hardships, hopes and a desire for safety and belonging. As the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said on World Humanitarian Day last week, “Nobody is ever just a refugee. Nobody is ever just a single thing.” Voters around the world should not let opportunistic politicians make them believe otherwise.

 

作者簡介:Justice Centre Hong Kong 是一所致力保護被迫離開家園來港的民眾的非牟利人權組織。被強迫離開家園來港的民眾包括難民,其他尋求保護的民眾以及酷刑、人口販運及現代奴役的倖存者。

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