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Fariha Salma Deiya Bakar, a 20-year-old Bangladesh-origin student, hopes to become Hong Kong's first ethnic minority lawmaker.


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Born in Hong Kong, Fariha speaks fluent Cantonese, Mandarin, Bengali, Hindi, English and the Filipino tongue of Tagalog.

"I want to see more ethnic minority representatives in the government, and make Hong Kong a better place for ethnic minorities to live in," she was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

 

A City University student, Fariha may already have a foot in the door - as a Legislative Council assistant, one of a few South Asian faces in the city’s lawmaking body.

 

It all started when her parents moved from Bangladesh to Hong Kong 25 years ago as a regional manager for the local branch of a garment and accessory company. They settled in the city hoping for a better life for their children, according to the report.

Her four-member family, including her 15-year-old brother, lives in a Yau Ma Tei flat in Kowloon, and comes to Bangladesh every two years to visit relatives.

 

Having learned Cantonese since the age of two, she speaks like a native and says the language is the key to building a life and career in the city. "Cantonese is important. If I don’t master it, I may have a lot of difficulties finding jobs, whether I have a degree. "Cantonese is part of Hong Kong culture and important for a sense of belonging here."

 

She chose Cantonese as a compulsory course in school while most of her ethnic minority classmates studied it as a second language.

 

Apart from taking courses, she also watched television dramas and read local newspapers to immerse herself. She even wrote down words from newspapers to memorise character strokes, she says.

 

Her efforts have paid off, and she has blended seamlessly into society. About 90 percent of her friends are locals, she says. "If I wasn’t eager to learn Cantonese, I wouldn’t have what I have today."

 

"I realised how lucky I’m that I grew up in Hong Kong so happily, but for some others around me, it is not the same. They face difficulties in a lot of things - from getting a spot in kindergarten, to opening a bank account and renting a flat," she says.

 

According to the 2016 population by-census, there were a total of 584,383 ethnic minority residents in Hong Kong, amounting to 8 percent of the city’s population. Excluding domestic helpers, the number was 263,593 - 3.6 percent of the total.

 

Since August last year, Fariha has been working from 10am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Kwok’s office at the Legislative Council Complex. She conducts policy research, as well as drafting and translating speeches and press releases, monitoring the development of important issues, especially those involving ethnic minorities.

 

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