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  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 3:28am

Court's ruling enforces semi-apartheid

Hong Kong now has full judicial backing to continue treating foreign domestic helpers as a special class of people to be excluded from many basic rights accorded to legal residents who, in the jargon of the Basic Law, "ordinarily reside" in Hong Kong. Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief, especially the government, following the judgment yesterday by the Court of Final Appeal - all except the maids and their supporters.

It is never good for a society's moral fibre when a whole class of individuals, based on race, nationality and/or gender, is permanently consigned to the status of servants. I know many people in Hong Kong are fine with that, but I do not want my children to automatically assume every Filipino or Indonesian woman they see is a servant.

Of course, those countries that supply the maids - who form a key pillar of their economies - have a lot to answer for by failing to create enough opportunities for the women to lead more fulfilling lives in their own countries. But recipient countries and cities benefit from their failure.

What if the court judgment had turned the other way and the maids were granted the same status as other expatriates? No doubt many people would fear that thousands of maids would flood into Hong Kong. The government would then curtail the number entering the city, leading to a shortage of supply and higher wages for those already here.

Others who started off working as maids could find new jobs where they could develop their talents. Local and expat families that could not find help or afford to hire maids would have to do their own household chores. Is that really so bad?

But without maids' help, what about childcare for mothers who must work, you ask? The government would then come under pressure to develop and pay for proper childcare and kindergarten services to help working mums, like most governments in developed and rich economies do. The maids' low wages have been, in fact, an excuse for the government to make us pay for what should have been provided by the state.

If equality is a condition of real democracy, then by virtue of our semi-apartheid system, we have proved ourselves unfit for it.


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This article is now closed to comments

The foreign domestic helper phenomenon in Hong Kong in such a large scale where I suspect all middle class employ at least one is unique in the world. For those who had lived abroad, don’t really find having a live-in servant neither comfortable nor necessary. Why can’t people organize themselves better to do some chores at home? Why can’t people as suggested by this column to ask government to provide childcare while parents must work?
In fact, the whole domestic helper falls in the many ugly fallouts of government’s land policy colluding with property developers. People all must work fulltime in order to pay their rent or mortgage. It is for the most a regrettable life to live and the shrinking of birth rate in Hong Kong clearly is making a point.
For the time being the unfair system in ill-treating the foreign domestic helpers can’t be faced straight in our hearts but feeling a relief in hiding behind the judgment of the court. Most of all, this column has pointed out that our children might think all Philippine women are a domestic helper.
I am looking forward life in Hong Kong becomes normalize without the Central being occupied every weekend by domestic helpers no matter where they come from. What a shame of the city has been.
I love how people love to call Alex Lo "Pro Beijing" and a "leftist" just because he says something they happen to disagree with. Then Alex drops a bomb like this.

I don't agree with Alex as far as the court ruling being racist, but you gotta respect a man who speaks his mind and doesn't just parrot back a Pro Beijing OR Pan Dem party line.

Hats off to you Alex
You're extremely vocal, yet pretty ignorant, on this issue. The Philippines and Indonesian governments have already announced that they're going to stop sending out domestic helpers in a couple of years, and Hong Kong is moving on to Bangladesh for it's next source of cheap, exploitable labor. Yet, I haven't seen any of the protests by Filipinas or Indonesian worker that you mentioned. There are undoubtedly problems in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the West should focus on their own problems. But don't use those as an excuse to ignore blatant unfairness and unconstitutionality right here in Hong Kong. We can and should learn from the West's mistakes. Create a system that works while also being fair. It's better for everyone, especially Hong Kong.




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