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  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 3:46pm
NewsHong Kong
COURTS

Foreign helpers' plea for permanent residency fails

Judgment by top court ends two-year saga over right of abode and denies request by the government for Beijing 'interpretation'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 10:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 11:27am

The top court ruled yesterday that foreign domestic helpers did not have the right to apply for permanent residency, affirming the government's right to impose immigration controls.

The landmark judgment ended the two-year right-of-abode saga that began when Evangeline Vallejos and Daniel Domingo, two Philippine domestic helpers who had worked in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, sought a judicial review of immigration law.

Mark Daly, solicitor for the two, said Vallejos was "calmly resigned" and that Domingo had called the ruling "unfair".

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body, said: "The ruling gives a judicial feel to the unfair treatment and social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong."

But also in its unanimous decision, the Court of Final Appeal rejected the government's controversial request that it seek an interpretation from Beijing, ruling it "unnecessary".

The request was seen by some as a backhanded attempt by the government to get Beijing to halt the flow of another group of unwanted migrants - children born locally of mainland parents - while putting the city's prized judicial independence at risk.

This means the judgment has thwarted the administration's attempt to solve right-of-abode issues involving domestic helpers and children born locally to mainlanders in one single case.

The government said it would "endeavour" to resolve the remaining right-of-abode issues within the local legal system, but fell short of saying that it would not directly seek an interpretation from Beijing.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung told a briefing last night: "We are trying our very best to resolve all legal issues concerning [children born in Hong Kong to mainlanders] by legal avenues which are available within the local legal system.

"We will exhaust our means before we do anything [else]."

Academics and pro-democracy lawmakers said the current ban on mainland women whose husbands were not Hong Kong permanent residents from booking beds in public hospitals had been effective.

They said there was no need for the government to seek an interpretation from Beijing, which they said would damage Hong Kong's autonomy.

The Bar Association and Law Society said directly seeking an interpretation from Beijing would be likely to undermine the rule of law of Hong Kong. Law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, a Basic Law Committee member, said there was only a slim chance the government would directly seek an interpretation from Beijing given the opposition from the public and the legal and political communities.

"I cannot see that the government has a good basis for it to seek an interpretation," he said, adding the zero-birth-quota measure had been successful. Law professor Michael Davis said: "The government should pursue local options. What they have done so far has had some success. There is really no reason to project beyond that."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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HK-Explorer
finally. This is a big win for the people of Hong Kong and the future generations to come. Pleasantly surprised that the Judges in HK looked at the needs of the people of Hong Kong and made the best decision possible. Finally the Chief executive has something to be proud of.
sontan0917
very justified and nice decision.
HK-Explorer
There is no racism. Racism would be saying come here and then say they don't have a right to permanent residency. Hong Kong knew that the population could not take on 150,000 extra permanent residents but it also want to give domestic helpers from poorer countries opportunities to improve while also helping people in HK.
HK made sure that every domestic helper prior to coming to Hong Kong know that they come because due to space constraints in Hong Kong they could not achieve permanent residency after 7 years.
This was all known and accepted by both sides. Not racism but realism based on available resources. People from Indonesia and Philippines could have said no that they did not want to come to HK with those conditions. However they said they wanted to come and fought hard to come because Hong Kong offered them something better than they had. HK gave them opportunity, independence and equality. It was a policy that favored domestic helpers.
Now with western influence they got an idea that they could try and grab even more by saying people were racist. That is a powerful thing to say. However in this case people were not.
Giraffe
What a pleasant surprise. The CFA hands down a common sense decision. Name me one country where the government is not allowed to make decisions on immigration and citizenship matters.
aplucky1
CLEARLY SAYS IN BASIC LAW they have zero claim for residency
they are lucky it even got this far
but the weak minded like yourself always make the easy play for the race card, give it up
blue
"WHERE does it say that in the Basic Law?"
The Basic Law clearly says only ordinary residents can have permanent residency. FDH by definition are not ordinary residents and you'll just gave to deal with it.
Filipinas and Filipinos who marry a local or foreigner holding permanent residency have no problems obtaining PR themselves. Your accusations of racism are totally hollow.
Also FDH are told from the get go that they can not have PR under their immigration status.
It's pretty pathetic that you accuse our judges of being stooges of Beijing just because they didn't rule to your liking. It really reminds me of how some American republicans who accuse some judges of being judicial activists because they upheld some abortion rights law. Get over yourself and respect the judiciary here.
anson888
The rule of law is very alive in Hong Kong.
nick4511
I think the ruling is fair ...all the domestic helpers in HK knew well on the terms of their contract and their status in HK well before they even started their work here so sadly they have to accept this ruling ....if they want to get a PR then qualify for an employment visa first which is not that of a helper where visa requirements are not the same as that of general employment and work for 7 years then get ur PR....
YOLO
I don't think racism is the issue here. Are you telling me Filipino expats workers cannot apply for citizenship after 7 years? FDHs are not the same as expats. No one is forcing them to come as FDH. If they do, then they have agreed to the terms and they must honor it. Also, there is not need to ask for Beijing, because that would defeat the purpose of being autonomous.
canuckister
What a joke. Total failure to read the Basic Law in its natural, non-**** meaning. This is judicial activism. The CFA's job isn't to rewrite the constitution.

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