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Diaspora well assimilated in Hong Kong

An estimated 35,000 members of the Indian diaspora live in Hong Kong, some of whom trace their links with their country of origin to the mid-1980s.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2006 21:07 IST

An estimated 35,000 members of the Indian diaspora live in Hong Kong, some of whom trace their links with their country of origin to the mid-1980s and have assimilated well with the mainstream of local life.

The 12,000 persons of Indian origin who hold passports other than Indian are mainly Sindhis and Gujaratis and speak fluent Cantonese and feel quite at home in Hong Kong.

"Most of us migrated to Hong Kong during the partition days - you know, around the middle of 1940s - and trading is one of the main professions," says Sunil 'Sony' M Mahbubani of Motis Exports.

"But that does not mean we don't have links with India," Mahbubani - who was at a reception organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry for the media team at the global trade talks - said while ordering dessert in what sounded like fluent Chinese.

Sindhis and Gujaratis apart, Hong Kong also has a smaller presence of people from Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu. Sikhs, incidentally, have a gurdwara right behind the hotel where the Indian media team has been staying.

British legacy of a different kind in Hong Kong

There is one curious legacy of the former colonial rulers of Hong Kong that has also integrated well into the mainstream - the Gurkhas with their familiar insignia of twin-kukris stitched to uniforms.

Only that the uniform of these brave men of Nepal is not of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, of which they were once a part, but of security agencies. After the handover of Hong Kong to China, some went to Britain and others stayed back.

"We do miss the old times, but that does not mean we have stopped enjoying our music, food, prayers and festivals. Of course, how can I forget Hindi films and songs," says one Gurkha stationed at the exhibition centre here.

Among the more popular security agencies founded by these former members of the British Army is the Gurkha International Group, which was founded in 1994 to employ the ex-servicemen.

India attracts more Hong Kong travellers

The people of Hong Kong, it appears, are getting interested in India a lot more these days. The Indian consulate here issued 23,004 visas last year - which translates into 63 visas a day.

This also amounts to a jump of 43 percent in tourists from Hong Kong to India considering that in 2003, the consulate issued 15,521 visas.

Although this former British protectorate was handed over to the Chinese, India recognises the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since July 1997 and still continues the rules applicable to British nationals - hence easy visas.

The Chinese passport holders, on the other hand, fall under what India calls the prior reference category, which makes visas to visit India not that easy an affair.

First Published: Jan 05, 2006 19:27 IST