Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Hongkong Land trying to help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 December, 1993, 12:00am

I WRITE in response to Mr Coleridge-Cole's letter (South China Morning Post, November 27) regarding domestic helpers in Central.

Mentioning Hongkong Land in the same context as Tregunter Towers is to make an unfair and misinformed criticism on two counts.

First, Hongkong Land does not own and has no connection whatsoever with Tregunter Towers, the building where the notice prohibiting domestic helpers from using the main lifts was displayed.

Secondly, far from being discriminatory, Hongkong Land has been actively lobbying for, encouraging and supporting a wide range of initiatives collectively aimed at improving the welfare of the domestic helpers on their day off.

There are more than 100,000 domestic helpers in Hong Kong and many of them are from the Philippines. Their numbers have grown in recent years so that today they represent a sizeable, much-valued and hardworking section of our community. Many domestic helpers gather in Statue Square on Sunday, but it is quite clear that Statue Square offers inadequate space, recreational facilities or indeed shelter during inclement weather.

The dramatic increase in the number of domestic helpers in recent years has resulted in a corresponding increase in the number congregating in Central on Sundays. Hongkong Land's concern is that this overcrowding and the inadequate facilities place strains on the environment in Central and, from our own point of view, affect the ability of some of our tenants to trade. We have sought to address this concern in a responsible and positive way and have taken the initiative in attempting to identify alternatives and possible facilities for the domestic helpers with the help of Government, the Philippine Consular representatives and business leaders. We continue to communicate with the Urban Council and the Central and Western District Board, seeking their co-operation to make more attractive options available.

We are pleased to say that since May, sites have been made available for some Filipino cultural functions of other sports and recreational activities, and a programme of vocational courses and field trips has been instituted. These have been largely organised by the publishers of Tinig Filipino magazine. In helping to establish this programme, Hongkong Land has provided seed finance and has sought to encourage others to participate.

But initiatives such as these should only be the start of a much more substantial effort to help, and our hope is to see the Hong Kong community respond as a whole to this need to provide far more suitable facilities and activities for the Filipino domestic helpers.

This group constitutes Hong Kong's largest immigrant population and contributes significantly to Hong Kong's economic development through allowing employers to remain in the workforce.

I am sure that the Hong Kong people recognise this and I believe therefore that they would support moves to provide more permanent facilities, especially sheltered areas for the domestic helpers' week-end recreation. But a concerted effort is needed, andour aim is to encourage all to participate.

ALASDAIR MORRISON Managing Director The Hongkong Land Property Company Ltd