This article reports on a qualitative study investigating the teaching experiences of ESL teachers of ethnic minority students from South Asian countries. Eight ESL teachers from two secondary schools in Hong Kong were interviewed. Informed by the concept of neoliberal governmentality, this study explores the shaping effect of neoliberal education on these teachers’ professional development, their negotiation with the current examination-oriented educational policy, and the overall neoliberal discourse in education. The teachers were found to be ambivalent in their contradictory positions regarding whether to encourage or prohibit the use of heritage languages in English learning, whether to conform to the curriculum or develop new materials and try out new ways, and how to unravel social responsibility for ethnic minority groups’ development. This study has implications for the importance of awareness of the impact of macro-level neoliberalism on micro-level educational practices among teachers, principals, and policy makers, and for the necessity of developing teacher education programmes to prepare teachers with a particular concern about the well-being of children (especially those in underprivileged communities), and enable them to think critically about scripted curriculum packages and to work within more diverse and challenging contexts. Copyright © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.