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Sukhdeep Kaur was overjoyed as she marched with her fellow batch mates after successfully completing the Hong Kong Correctional Services Department (CSD) training. She passed the physical fitness test, as well as the aptitude and fundamental legal assessments. She realized her desire of wearing a uniform after a relentless pursuit. In the process, she made history as the department's first Sikh female officer. Her achievement is yet another feather in the turban for Sikhs globally.

In an interview with Asia Samachar, she said, “I had decided to join the CSD after a career talk in my high school. I always wanted to wear their uniform, I found it quite attractive.”

She said that she had to pass the physical test that involved five tasks. She trained herself for almost three months, which included running around ten kilometers, and intensive gym workouts. After this, she went through a group interview in Chinese. She passed the final interview and made it through God’s grace. 

First Turbaned female Sikh officer 

Sukhdeep's portrait, wearing a blue turban that matched her outfit, was prominently featured in a local newspaper article about the Stanley prison's graduation ceremony on December 6, 2019. When questioned why she opted to work in correctional services, she stated that no other government position permitted her to keep her hair during training. It was only CSD who permitted it.

She continued by that Sikhi plays a significant role in her life. It is her identity and provides her purpose in life. Sukhdeep started wearing a turban on her wedding in 2017. 

Making the Sikh community proud 

Sukhdeep said that the local Sikh community was ecstatic to hear about her accomplishment. They were somewhat proud of her and honored her with a saroopa. They want their children to enroll as well, she stated.

About 12,000 Sikhs reside in Hong Kong. Approximately 6% of Hong Kong's population self-identifies as non-ethnic Chinese (NEC), according to the 2011 Population Census conducted by the Race Relations Unit of the Home Affairs Department. Many of them are descendants of immigrants from India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

Sukhdeep, who was born in Punjab, arrived in Hong Kong with her parents and grandparents when she was seven years old in a quest for better economic possibilities.

Learning the Cantonese language 

Speaking Cantonese, the most common Chinese dialect is essential on the linguistic front. Sukhdeep said, “I wouldn’t say I am that fluent as I studied in the English medium school. I had realized the importance of learning Cantonese when I was looking for a job. Most required speaking Cantonese, so I spent some time in polishing my language skills.

She further said that the inmates and locals were surprised when she spoke Cantonese as not many non-Chinese speak fluently. She was not fluent, but it was good enough. Adding to it, she said that while locals started communicating with her in English initially but once she replied in Cantonese, they start speaking with her in the local language. 

Sukhdeep, who works in the Lo Wu Correctional Institution, a facility for female convicts, believes her ethnic background can give her a distinct advantage in rehabilitating prisoners. Some people in detention have questioned her about the turban, which is an excellent way to strike up a conversation. Indians there could feel better at ease speaking to her in their language as well.

The CSD primarily deals with juvenile criminals, drug addicts, first-time offenders, and recidivists. It oversees 28 correctional facilities, including jails, halfway homes, and public hospital wards for the custody of inmates. By upholding her identity, Sukhdeep continues to make Sikhs proud. 

 

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