THE CENTRAL ISSUE
THE weekly occupation of Central by Filipino domestic helpers has long been a controversial issue, sparking debates in newspaper letters pages and columns. The Sunday Morning Post asked a selection of people what they thought of the plans to move the helpers to new locations.
Therese Necio, marketing executive: ''I think the shops in Central have a point because the maids do converge there. Finding a more convenient and large enough space takes a lot of thinking and I'm not surprised at the reaction from residents. Lots of them are so used to being in a crowded space they don't want it to be any more crowded.
''But on the other hand, Central is the most accessible and cheap place for the maids, so both sides have a valid argument. These are people who work six days a week, often without setting foot outside the door. They need a breathing space too.
''Since schools are closed on Sundays, perhaps the consulates could offer classes in Cantonese or cooking. That way the employers benefit and the domestic helpers have a sense of their own value.'' Michael Vincent, host of the Philippines Tonight radio show on Metro Plus: ''It's definitely difficult to ask people to get out of Central where they've converged all these years. But of course land in Hong Kong is always a difficult issue.
''One of the objections I've noticed is that residents are worried the domestic helpers will create a lot of rubbish. I believe the reaction has substance in a way. I'm Filipino but to a certain degree it's too stubborn of people who stay in Central. They take it for granted as they've been going there a long time.
''I always tell them on the radio that we're considered second-class citizens, it's not our country of origin, so whatever the country says, we have to do it. We have to be above blame. I don't think this is racism - it's just that as our numbers grow, so does the attention we get.
''We need to really push for these centres, but someone has to take responsibility for them too. And maybe offer a three-month probation period to put people's minds at rest.'' Alfred Tso Shiu-wai, legislator: ''It makes people a bit resentful to see so many of them in Central. Central is a financial centre, even on Sunday. When tourists or visitors or businessmen go to Central on Sunday or other occasions, if they see a scene like that, it might put them off. It's not scenic.
''The number of them is the main problem. You would need a lot of centres. But how to move them I don't know. If you get them a centre in Eastern, will they really go there?'' Seamus McManus, general manager, Mandarin Oriental in Central: ''Any proposals which would make it more comfortable for those who are in the Central area on Sundays would be welcomed.''