Parents furious at follicle follies

11th October 1996 at 01:00
HONG KONG. Parents have condemned as racist a rule that schoolchildren should only have black hair. Dyed brown hair has become all the rage in Japan and the fashion for lighter locks has spread to dark-haired youngsters in Hong Kong. But school authorities which clamped down on pupils sporting anything other than regulation black are coming under fire.

The parents of a teenage Eurasian girl who was paraded in front of the school at assembly for "dyeing" her hair have lodged a complaint with the Hong Kong education department, demanding an apology and an end to the policy. The father accused the school of racism, saying: "My daughter is well-known in school so there is no excuse for the teacher not knowing her [racial] make-up."

Yeung Ye-sau, principal of the Jockey Club Government Technical School, said the school rules forbid dyed hair: "As most of our students are Chinese and have black hair, students with light-coloured or brown hair are asked to produce a letter from their parents saying this is their natural colour.

"If we did not ask this Eurasian girl to produce the letter and asked Chinese children with brown hair to do so, they would say they were being discriminated against."

Mr Yeung said 35 of the 1,100 pupils had been warned and all had produced a letter or had restored their hair to its natural colour.

"What we want to avoid is students dyeing their hair all kinds of odd colours. If they dye their hair brown and you accept that, then you would have students dying their hair blond and purple," Mr Yeung said.

The Hong Kong education department is trying to defuse the row and has described the incident as a "misunderstanding". It said the question of hair colour was a matter for schools, not the education department.

Parents of Eurasian children say this is yet another discriminatory practice. They have often complained that Hong Kong's most sought-after schools routinely exclude Eurasian children, particularly those with Western surnames. The schools usually claim that Eurasian children will fall behind in Chinese, without parental help with homework.

* The Malaysian state of Kedah is threatening to imitate its neighbouring Thailand and make all its schoolboys cut their hair. The resulting crewcuts, it is argued, will make truants easier to spot in shopping malls and video arcades. The idea has been attacked as an infringement of democratic rights.

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