BUKIT MERTAJAM: An engineer of Chinese-Indian parentage triggered a debate over Twitter after sharing how difficult it was for him to find a room for rent in Bukit Mertajam.
Known locally as a 'Chindian', Divyang Hong has a Chinese father and an Indian mother.
He bears a Sanskrit name that means “Divine Limb”.
He went to a Chinese vernacular school and has a good command of Chinese, Penang Hokkien, Tamil, English and Bahasa Malaysia.
Hong, 25, who is from Sungai Petani, found a job in Bukit Mertajam last month and when he tried to rent a room in town, his brown skin colour got in the way.
All the suitable rooms for rent in town specified “prefer Chinese male” but though his grandfather came from China and his father a Chinese, he did not fit the bill.
Some 10 landlords whom he contacted turned him away.
Only through his father’s friend, who had a vacant house, did he finally get a room to stay and start his career here.
Of the more than 5,000 people commenting on his tweet, Hong said there were those who supported the freedom of landlords to choose.
Hong, however, felt that stereotyping potential tenants based on skin colour was “superficial”.
“Landlords can do background checks on potential tenants instead of just wanting those of a particular skin colour,” he said.
Hong said he used Mandarin to speak to some of the landlords, but once he revealed that he was of mixed parentage, the deal was off.
“They told me they only want ‘Chinese’.”
Hong said he had been getting such cold shoulder over the years and had grown “immune” to it.
“I was not upset but desperate due to time constraints in getting a room,” he said.
According to a portal, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said Hong’s predicament would be discussed in the state exco meeting.