Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Letters to the Editor, January 7, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 2:36am

Laws designed to protect maids ignored

I could not agree more with Geoff Carey's letter regarding the vulnerability of domestic helpers in Hong Kong ("Maids will be at mercy of agencies", January 1).

I especially want to direct attention to his point that Hong Kong does have rule of law, "but its effectiveness depends on enforcement".

Where is the enforcement by the labour and immigration departments regarding the abuses perpetrated on domestic helpers and their agencies?

I asked the same question in my letter ("Crack down on errant maid employers", November 23) and the overwhelming silence from those venerable government institutions has been significant.

It was pointed out by Alan Crawley that maids were being deceived by the "curfew" imposed on them by their employers and also denied statutory holidays because they have only worked for the employer for three months ("Maids being duped by urban myths", November 8).

Mr Carey is absolutely correct in describing the abuses which the domestic helpers are being subjected to.

Why is the government so reluctant to expose these abuses and why does it refuse to take any punitive measures?

Lately, we have been subjected to a barrage of publicity about illegal structures and the measures which are being taken to rectify this situation.

While I believe in enforcing the rule of law, I cannot understand why the government is choosing to enforce a law on illegal structures where people are not personally affected, while refusing to enforce laws that abuse a marginalised portion of our population.

I am sure Mr Carey, Mr Crawley, and I would appreciate some response from the relevant government agencies.

Nisa Crutchfield, Sha Tin


Vet schools could ease shortages

The shortage of veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong is severe ("Lack of vets is posing risk to public health", December 27).

This is obviously a cause for concern given the problems Hong Kong has experienced with the severe acute respiratory syndrome and bird flu, that is, "illnesses jumping from animals to humans".

The situation is made worse by the fact that 90 per cent of vets practising here care for household pets rather than working on farms and looking after livestock.

This threatens the health of farmers and the public, given the problem of animal-related diseases.

There are no veterinary schools in Hong Kong and the government must rectify this. And it must ensure these schools produce animal care experts who can and will supervise livestock on farms in order to ensure the safety of their produce.

The administration must also try to ensure that those Hongkongers who are trained at these newly established vet schools stay here to practise as veterinary surgeons after they have graduated.

Valerie Suen, Tai Po


Skyrocketing rent hikes now ridiculous

Once more we read about two small businesses closing (Kam Kee Cafe and Peking Restaurant) as they cannot pay the absurd increases in rents ("Diners duck in for one final meal", December 28).

Still, the only thing which we hear from our business leaders (that is, property tycoons) is that a minimum wage increase from HK$28 to HK$32 would kill business.

This is a meagre increase of 15 per cent compared with rent increases of several hundred per cent.

Take, for example, Shanghai Tang at its Central store, which faced a monthly rent of HK$7 million, more than double the previous rent.

How long are we going to take these so-called business leaders seriously?

We should revolt against them and demand that our government breaks all ties with them as there is a feeling that our officials are uncomfortably close to these tycoons.

The government is there, or should be there, to take care of the interests of all Hong Kong people and not just the select few.

I really wonder whether it is indeed Beijing that is placing obstacles in the way of universal suffrage or the tycoons?

Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay


Protesters have been unreasonable

There have been a number of protests in which people have called for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down, claiming dishonesty on his part over illegal structures at his home.

I do agree with people who argue that the chief executive must listen to the opinions expressed by citizens and he should be accelerating the public housing construction programme.

But I think some of the points made by protesters have been unreasonable.

C.Y. has already apologised for the unauthorised structures. We should forgive him and give him an opportunity to prove he can be a better chief executive.

Carwyn Lee Kai-chun, Tuen Mun


Raise level of allowance for elderly

Opponents of the chief executive's proposed Old Age Living Allowance say the monthly sum of HK$2,200 is too low and that it should not be means-tested.

I can understand the purpose of the means test and there must be criteria set in terms of property ownership to determine whether applicants are eligible.

The government needs to be able to use its resources, not just for this allowance, but for other important areas such as improving the quality of medical services. However, the rule that only those with assets not exceeding HK$186,000 are eligible should be altered.

It is not unusual for elderly people to have such a sum in assets, but that does not mean they have enough to support themselves, especially when you look at inflation in Hong Kong and the fact that prices keep rising. I think the sum should be increased to HK$500,000.

Also, I think the monthly allowance of HK$2,200 is not a lot of money, especially for an elderly person with no family, no income and no savings.

We need to consider the contribution these people made to the city during their working lives.

Also, compare this sum with other developed economies. For example, in Canada, many pensioners will receive more than C$1,000 a month for the rest of their lives. This is just under HK$8,000.

In order to ensure our old folk can enjoy their retirement, our government needs to look at the proposed sums again.

Jackie Yung Chak-ki, Tsuen Wan


Drink drivers get lenient treatment

I am concerned about drink driving which I believe has become a serious problem in Hong Kong, causing injuries and sometimes fatalities.

Even though it is clear that people would be taking a real risk if they get behind the wheel when they are drunk, they keep doing it and some end up in court.

The government has made efforts to step up its fight against drink drivers.

For example, it introduced random breath tests, but, obviously, some motorists who are under the influence will slip through the net and get away with it.

I think it is time to look at the punishment people face when convicted.

At the moment, the maximum fine is HK$25,000, with up to three years' imprisonment. Some people will probably feel that HK$25,000 is not that much.

The courts should be given the power to impose tougher punishments than those that are presently available and this could hopefully act as a deterrent.

Pubs and restaurants also have a duty to remind their customers that they must not drink and drive.

Individuals can also play their part by reminding friends they must not drive if they get drunk.

Ultimately, of course, it is up drivers themselves to exercise self-discipline.

Jenna Leung, Sha Tin


Think outside the pillar industries box

In the past, it was commonly believed that that the so-called pillar industries - finance, logistics and trade, tourism and professional services - were all that was needed to support Hong Kong's economy.

However, times have changed and the pendulum has swung in a different direction.

The economic tsunami that affected economies globally showed the sometimes unstable nature of one of those pillar industries - finance.

Also, these kinds of downturns and crises like Sars and bird flu can adversely affect the tourism industry and lead to a dramatic decline in the number of visitors.

This shows that we should not rely entirely on these traditional pillar industries.

It is also important to promote creative industries and firms that come forward with innovative ideas, using, for example, the latest in new technology.

Some of these industries that appear to be on the margins could eventually be part of the mainstream.

Of course, we must maintain Hong Kong's traditional pillar industries, but we must be open to new ideas and new sectors and not neglect their potential.

Irene Lai, Sha Tin