Donald Tsang

Tsang's chance to protect the weak - Indonesian maids

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am

In his election manifesto, Hong Kong's likely new leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen says he 'must be strong to protect the weak'.

Well, he can readily turn these fine-sounding platitudes into action, by coming to the aid of those at the bottom of Hong Kong's social scale.

Your top leader 'Government failing Indonesian maids' (Sunday Morning Post, June 12) rightly called upon the government to take more effective steps to protect the interests of the many Indonesian maids whose lot in Hong Kong is that of indentured labourers - close to slave labour.

It must also be a matter of regret that the Indonesian Consulate-General does so little to stand up for the legal and moral rights of its abused workers. This simply reflects the indifference of the government in Jakarta, which ignores the issue - and thereby permits such abuse - allowing these girls to be ripped off during the recruitment process, even before they reach Hong Kong.

It is clear that an alarmingly high percentage of Hong Kong families with foreign domestic helpers do not treat them fairly, in many cases breaking the law by underpaying them. This they can now do with impunity. These abused people are exactly the type of people an enlightened government needs to protect.

So go to it, Mr Tsang. Some concrete steps he can take:

Monitor the payment of salaries to all maids to ensure they at least receive the minimum stipulated;

Establish a minimum monthly household income for potential employers, say of $10,000, to ensure that people who really cannot afford a maid do not get one - and so do not abuse one;

Blacklist those families which do not pay maids properly;

Ensure that when these migrant workers arrive in Hong Kong, they owe no debts to their employment agencies. Blacklist agencies which break this rule. The employers should pay the agencies, not the maids;

Decline to approve work permits for maids in households which do not provide a room for her, however small. Far too many of them are now forced to sleep on the sofa, or the kitchen floor;

Ensure by monitoring that the maximum number of work hours a day is not regularly ignored. To aid distressed individuals who are afraid of complaining about abuse, enact rules to cover disputes. They should stipulate that the employer continues paying salary and for hostel accommodation, until the problems are settled.

Ensuring that this generation of abused Indonesian maids is the last so treated in Hong Kong would be a commendable step in the right direction.


Plumed chief

Should Donald Tsang Yam-kuen take up residence in Government House, he will have finally fulfilled his dream of becoming governor. If governor David Wilson left behind his plumage, all it will need is a little dusting off.

MARK PEAKER, Chung Hom Kok

Boost graduates' pay

Is the pay review for the top only? The recent review of the remuneration package for the chief executive's salary is obviously important for Hong Kong ('Chief's pay rise a $126,000 question', May 20). But equally important is the remuneration package offered by the civil service to new graduates in engineering, surveying, architecture and town planning.

The graduates who enter this programme find work in the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, Lands Department, Architectural Services Department and the Planning Department. They have had several years of university study, up to master's level in most cases.

The irony is that their hard work is not rewarded adequately in their contribution to the community. For instance, in Lands, pay for graduate trainees was $16,095 per month in 2003 and was reduced to $10,700 per month last year. This has sent mixed signals to students and forced them to question their contribution to society. The civil service should have reviewed the pay scheme for new graduates as well as the top rung.


Man at fault, not sharks

I refer to the article 'Shark's fin soup: enjoy it - and make it last' (June 11), by Andrew Wells. He writes, 'having had a close call with one of the pea-brained, vicious predators (hammerhead, Galapagos Islands, 1981), I am happy to see them end up at the other end of the food chain.'

Sharks have been around millions of years longer than human beings. They are magnificent to watch, and to dive with. The ocean is their natural environment, not ours. It is not sharks that have gratuitously devastated life forms, but we humans. We are the 'pea-brained, vicious predators': the most destructive predators ever.

If the presence of sharks bothers Mr Wells in the few hours a year he might scuba dive, then maybe he should take up tenpin bowling or flower arranging. Or he could do a deal with sharks: he does not enter the sea, and they do not enter the pub.


Video proof of massacre

So Peter Lok has never seen video or motion-picture footage of the slaughter at Tiananmen Square (June 10). He can be sure, however, that such footage exists and has been seen by the world.

I was living in Taiwan in 1989 and the ruling party there missed no opportunity to show the barbarity of Beijing's crackdown, while in North America, viewers were bombarded daily with images of mangled, broken bodies. Mr Lok may well be correct that no deaths occurred in Tiananmen Square; most of the violence took place in the blocks surrounding the square and there is ample video footage to prove this. And if there were not, what would its absence prove? Where is the film of the Rape of Nanking?

As for the words of Henry Kissinger, note that he was the mastermind behind America's secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia, the human cost of which will never be known.


Workers prefer welfare

J. Garner's June 13 letter tells us that 'the rejection of the constitution is a healthy sign that voters in democracies can choose economic deigns best suited to their conditions'.

He also asks 'Why should the skilled workers of France, Holland and Germany make way for cheap labour from the east [of Europe] and Turkey, merely to satisfy capitalism?' I would like him to find these workers among French, Dutch and Germans who are willing to clean the streets, work in the warehouses or in the flower bulb industry in the Netherlands.

The fact is that despite unemployment of 8-12 per cent, employers cannot find workers as west Europeans do not like these jobs. And as it is fairly easy for them to survive on social welfare, they can just refuse. That is why companies get workers from Poland and Turkey.

As for a workers' democracy, I recall two discussions from school. Another student, a supporter of the communist party, said anyone who wanted government assistance should get it, because that was their 'birthright'. I asked him what would happen if everyone could make use of their birthright. Also, a teacher said the salary spread - where a doctor earned $100,000 and a factory worker $30,000 - should be moderated to $70,000 for the doctor and $60,000. Not agreeing, I raised my hand and said: 'We are having an exam tomorrow. If student 'A' goes back home tonight and studies like crazy and scores a 10 and I play soccer with my friends and study for just 15 minutes and score a three, do you then also moderate these numbers into a seven and a six?' I was expelled from the class and my father was asked to apologise, which he refused to do.

The biggest flaw with communism and socialism is human beings. They need some stimulant or reward, otherwise they just go the easy way. That is what the French and the Dutch voters have done.