More than 100 restaurants in Hong Kong have refused to serve diners from mainland China during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a human rights group that is warning firms against crossing the line into racial discrimination.
The Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) found the businesses were posting messages online or displaying notices at their premises barring Mandarin speakers and non-locals, while secret shopper visits revealed mainlanders were being turned away. Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, from SoCO, said the health crisis did not justify discriminatory practices against visitors to the city and recent immigrants from the mainland. “Of course restaurants should take different [public health] measures, but they should not do it in a way that strips some people of their rights or discriminates against them,” the veteran activist said in a press conference on Thursday.
The human rights advocacy group scoured websites and the social media accounts of local restaurants and found 101 of them had posted messages of a discriminatory nature, including refusing to serve mainlanders and Mandarin speakers, or declaring they would only entertain locals. The investigation, conducted between Feb 15 and 28, also involved visits to 61 restaurants. It found 38 of them had displayed signs on their premises that did not welcome mainland customers. Investigators posed as Mandarin-speaking customers at 13 eateries, and were denied service at five of them.
In another case, an investigator was rejected even though he told restaurant staff where he was from and that he had not crossed the northern border in the past 14 days. Tsoi said while denying service to everyone who had been to the mainland in the past 14 days did not discriminate against a particular group of people, restaurants would cross the line into racial discrimination if they imposed a blanket ban on all mainlanders.