Monks bemoan cheap overseas labour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 February, 1998, 12:00am

Ultimate truth and rebirth aside, the talk among Buddhist monks these days is of labour importation and the knock their little red pay packets are taking.

Monks say they are being squeezed out of a reasonably lucrative business of beating drums, reading the sutra and praying at funerals by an influx of cheaper counterparts from the mainland and elsewhere in Asia.

'It's fair that they're complaining - they have a right to,' an insider at Po Lin Monastery on Lantau said.

A monk from another monastery claimed at least four fellow Buddhists had given up the business of reading scriptures at funerals because imported labour was undercutting them by taking smaller pre-arranged 'donations'.

Monks are paid in lai see packets by bereaved families.

Earnings have reportedly dropped from $20,000 a month to just a few thousand for some.

The Po Lin worker said mainland monks received less for their services as they could not properly translate scriptures into Cantonese.

Hong Kong Buddhist Association officers said they would raise the issue with their superiors and added that none of their estimated 10,000 members had complained.

'Monks shouldn't complain about money,' executive officer Lee Yee-wai said.

The Immigration Department has a set quota for monks entering the SAR but could not give figures for arrivals.

The Labour Department is uncertain if, as recipients of donations from the public, the monks are protected under the Employment Ordinance. It has received no complaints.