Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am

Ruling has serious implications

The court ruling in favour of the right of a foreign domestic worker to apply for abode in Hong Kong needs urgent consideration and debate by the government and the wider public.

If this was just a one-off case, then I would not be concerned and would wish Evangeline Banao Vallejos good luck with her application for residency.

However, I would be deeply concerned if this ruling leads to the start of an avalanche of court actions for residency by foreign domestic maids.

I believe my views are shared by the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people. Most citizens are against giving foreign domestic workers the right of abode in Hong Kong. This is not racial discrimination as some people might like to suggest. For me, it is purely a case of numbers. There are about 300,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong and if they all apply for residency and later bring their husbands and children along, this could increase the population by more than a million.

This will have a severe impact on Hong Kong society and on public services such as education, housing, employment and welfare. Many governments control immigration through having strict residency requirements. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with more than seven million people living in a small area.

We cannot afford to relax our strict but absolutely necessary immigration rules. All those who come to Hong Kong to work as foreign domestic workers agree to the special immigration rules regarding non-residency.

They cannot now say they should be treated as a special case unless the law is changed. And the law should not be changed unless it has the consent of the majority of the people of Hong Kong.

Peter Liu, Sheung Shui

Helpers get second-class treatment

I was very pleased to learn that domestic helpers are one step closer to entitlement to right of abode.

Doris Lee of Open Door ('Action needs to be taken to ensure the safety of foreign domestic workers', September 23) is right: domestic helpers are currently being treated like second-class citizens. A Hong Kong government website states that 'a person not of Chinese nationality who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document, has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years and has taken Hong Kong as his or her place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the HKSAR' is entitled to right of abode. Does a domestic helper who fulfils all those requirements simply not qualify as a person, then?

It is unacceptable for the government to dole out rights in a way that only benefit those who already hold socio-political power.

I find this system to be an embarrassment to this otherwise internationally minded city. That being said, it's something we can easily take steps to improve on, and I hope we don't stop short of taking those steps in this preliminary stage.

C. Tung, Mid-Levels

We cannot keep running to Beijing

The court ruling regarding right of abode and [foreign] domestic helpers is apparently very clear. It has been arrived at by a judge in a city that advertises the fact that it has the rule of law operated by an independent judiciary.

Asking Beijing for a ruling on a ruling is only to be expected from Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee ('HK must seek Beijing ruling on right of abode for maids, Ip says', October 3). She does not seem to understand the consequences of running to Beijing whenever something happens that she does not like.

If every decision, however minor, has to be taken by Beijing, surely it will decide that it is not even worth bothering with the pretence of electing a chief executive or a legislature, and just appoint a mainland official to do the job and impose the mainland legal system.

Beijing could argue what is the point of having independent judges. If Hongkongers want to be ruled in the same way as the mainland, then let it be so. What Mrs Ip and others like her should be doing is making sure that they address the problem, if there is one, in a mature manner.

They should address the implications of a minimum wage and hourly working week for the women who become permanent residents. I think the opposition to the ruling is driven by racism and money - people may have to pay more for their domestic help.

It may make people consider that the cost [of hiring a foreign helper] is too great and actually start to look after their own children. Surely no bad thing.

Michael Jenkins, Central

Government must show who is boss

Those in the mainstream of Hong Kong society see the SAR government as weak.

They look at the issue of right of abode for foreign domestic helpers as another example of this weakness and echo the views expressed by a senior mainland official that the administration does not know how to be boss. Senior officials have allowed themselves to be pushed around.

It's about time the SAR government showed it is the boss. It must have the courage to protect the interests of local people.

The case against permanent residency for foreign maids must be won, even if interpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing is needed. Any other outcome will not be acceptable.

Alan Lo, North Point

We need more than safe choice

Albert Cheng King-hon ('Tang will be a safer pair of hands in uncertain times', September 28), writes that Henry Tang Ying-yen 'has no obvious political achievements but is perceived as a relatively competent chief secretary'.

As our leaders in Beijing have often said, we need to create social 'harmony'. But what does this mean in these changing times? A 'relatively competent' but politically deaf chief executive, playing the same old chords over and over, will not produce harmony when the tunes of the times change key.

Even the most superficial study of history shows that social discord between rulers and their people is the precursor of instability and even revolution. Nobody denies that discord continues to grow in Hong Kong. The status quo is not safe.

We must feel reassured that our leaders in Beijing are not so tone-deaf as to ignore this fact of life.

S. P. Li, Lantau

Volume of food waste can be cut

I do not understand how in present-day Hong Kong there are still low-income families suffering from malnutrition. It seems to me that there is not enough promotion of food banks.

I do not know where they are located so I wonder how those people who are seeking help can find them. This problem should be rectified. Many people eat at least one meal a day outside their home and this can increase their financial burden.

I would like to see some restaurants launching a discount campaign to help people.

McDonald's has introduced HK$20 meals and this initiative is really helpful to those on low incomes.

If even a multinational food chain can have a discount campaign, there is no reason other eateries cannot follow suit.

Some people in Hong Kong are going hungry while a great deal of food is wasted. We must look into this and ascertain why we are generating such large volumes of waste.

The most effective way to deal with this is through education. Then people might appreciate the value of food and only consume what they need.

I look forward to eventually reading that the food distribution imbalance has been rectified in Hong Kong and people from the grass roots are able to enjoy a balanced diet.

Kathy Ng Ka-ying, Chai Wan

US envoy right about sex tourism

Tell Philippine government officials there is a fund available to solve a problem and they will readily admit the need for help, but give officials a performance assessment and they will dismiss it even before looking into your evaluation.

Tourism chief Ramon Jimenez' response to claims by US ambassador Harry Thomas is typical and embarrassing ('Manila takes issue with claims of sex tourism', September 26).

Do a study on how many foreigners visit clubs in Roxas Boulevard in Manila and other girlie bars, or check how many foreigners receive hotel 'visitors' in Manila alone, and you will probably get a figure of higher than the 40 per cent [of foreign men being sex tourists] referred to by Mr Thomas.

I used to go on business trips to Manila often and would get disgusted every time my Britain-based employers and colleagues would bring young ladies back to our hotel.

I spoke out but no one listened.

The Philippine government and local and foreign companies would rather turn a blind eye to the exploitation of women.

Bo Barreto, Lantau