Abode claim unfairly puts Hongkongers in a bad light

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am


Victoria Park in Causeway Bay is one of my favourite places to take a stroll. On Sundays, the whole park is full of Indonesian migrant workers.

In the evening, after they have returned home, the park is full of rubbish. Yet, through the years, no one has complained.

A similar situation occurs in Central, where the perimeters of all A-grade office buildings are taken up by Filipino workers.

Instead of driving them away, we cordon off a section of one thoroughfare for pedestrians, just to accommodate them. Again, no one complains.

Why does no one make a fuss? Has it to do with the principle of human rights? No, we just feel like doing it, perhaps out of old-fashioned Chinese hospitality. These people come to the city from afar to help us, and we are happy to provide a convenient spot for them to meet their friends and relatives on their day off.

This is the Chinese way of doing things. If some of these migrant workers have a good reason for wishing to stay, we are happy to accommodate - again, out of common decency, not because of human rights.

But now, out of the blue, some of these migrant workers claim they have a right to permanent residency status, and that right has been denied.

This has infuriated a lot of people in Hong Kong because their claim puts us in a very bad light. We are viewed as bad guys who discriminate against these poor souls. How mean and wicked. This is too much for most of us to stomach.

Let's face it, foreign domestic helpers come to Hong Kong in the full knowledge that they will not become permanent residents, no matter how long they work here. If they do not like this, they can refuse to sign their employment contract or leave when it expires.

It is unreasonable to blame the other side; we have become the victims and feel we are being mistreated.

Ideally, everybody should have the right to travel anywhere and live anywhere. In practice, however, every country has an immigration policy with particular restrictions. This is simply how the world is governed and there is no discrimination involved, racial or otherwise.

Claiming right of abode in Hong Kong on human rights grounds is, therefore, somewhat far-fetched.

As I have said in a previous article, if there is discrimination, it seems to be targeted at mainland Chinese.

For one thing, mainlanders are not even entitled to apply to work here as domestic helpers. Talking about fairness and non-discrimination, the Chinese have this saying: put yourself in my shoes and tell me how you feel.

For the Chinese, legality is no more than common sense and natural justice is always the most important justice. For the case of the right of abode, as employers and as citizens of Hong Kong, we feel strongly that we don't owe migrant workers anything.

We have never treated them unfairly and never discriminated against them and will deny any such accusation. We are not the bad guys.

So don't give us this human rights defence. No matter how the court rules, this will not be acceptable to the general public here.

It is a matter of principle, and the ultimate number of migrant workers taking advantage of this loophole, which curiously has now become the focal point of public debate, is beside the point.

If there are no common ethics within the community and there is no mutual respect and trust, we will become like in the United States and have to rely heavily on litigation to resolve our daily conflicts.

This is not very effective, and not the Chinese way, which relies more on common sense, empathy and inclusiveness.

We will have to place more trust in our officials and let them exercise their discretion in their decision-making, especially in handling case work.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development