Trouble with D words: democracy and domestic helpers

In this week's edition, Beijing-Hong Kong tensions are expected to get worse, the New York Times concludes, and domestic helpers get in the spotlight in Canada's media

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

The liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong is a picture of anxiety and mystery, according to the New York Times.

The building is described as dark - “topped by a mysterious, nearly four-story black globe” - and the people who work there carry “worried hearts”, buying herbal relievers at the shop next door.

The reason? Rising anti-Beijing sentiment among Hongkongers, characterised by protests, scuffles along the border over milk powder and outcry at the influx of mainland tourists and pregnant mothers.

The Times story looks at the politics of the liaison office, whose long-time officials, Peng Qinghua and Li Gang, were ousted in December against their wishes. Their replacements don’t bode well for the city’s pro-democracy movement, the article concludes. Liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming...

has emphasised the “one country” portion of the formula, stressing that China’s sovereignty must be respected at all times.

“It’s going to get worse,” Martin Lee, a founder of the Democratic Party, told the New York Times.

Besides talk of democracy, there has also been hypothetical talk of monarchy - specifically, what if Hong Kong got to vote on a referendum to return to British rule, similar to the Falkland Islands’ vote last week.

Many people think Hongkongers would choose British overlords rather than Beijing ones, according to an informal poll by

The poll, which sparked debate about colonial nostalgia and the future of Hong Kong, is now’s most popular, with nearly 20,000 votes. It also grabbed the attention of at least two media outlets.

RocketNews24's inaccurate headline reads: “More than 90 per cent” of Hong Kong citizens long to return to British rule

This is wrong because there’s no way of knowing whether the votes are from Hong Kong citizens or not. And the poll is carefully worded to address that point. More accurate would be: “More than 90 per cent of SCMP readers think Hongkongers long to return to British rule”.

Radio Free Asia took a more balanced view and quoted legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.

While the poll wasn't a scientific survey, it gave a snapshot of public sentiment towards Beijing in the years since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.

"Hong Kong people feel that [their own] government is doing a worse job than it was during British rule," Leung said.

"If you were to ask them whether they were better off before the handover, the answer would probably be that things were a bit better."

Leung said people in Hong Kong tended to see 1997 as a dividing line.

"The interference from the Chinese Communist Party has frightened people in Hong Kong," he said. "That interference is getting more and more obvious, and more and more serious."

The poll was also cited on a petition page on, where 375 signers want the “British government to help Hong Kong out of its situation”.

To Sir David Cameron, the petition starts out.

Hong Kong is dying...

Fighting for equality

Canadian news website CBC News published two stories about Hong Kong's domestic helpers. 

One looks at the landmark court case by Filipino helpers Evangeline Banao Vallejos and Daniel Domingo, who have appealed to the highest court to be given the right to apply for residency.

The other focuses on the abuse many maids face but do not report for fearing of losing their jobs. 

Those reports come on the heels of a moratorium on Filipino helpers imposed by recruitment agencies. The groups have demanded that Hong Kong employers agree to new recruitment terms and conditions that comply with Manila's no placement-fee policy, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Inquirer said the freeze on deployment of the helpers is working, citing fewer processing requests from recruiting agencies. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is looking to Bangladesh for helpers.

Other coverage from the week of March 10