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  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 2:00am
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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This article is now closed to comments

HK-Explorer
Heartbreak to their Dream? The only dream was to try and take from HK something they did not deserve. They did not qualify for PR and that was told to them right from the beginning. The whole Dream was built up by domestic helpers who listened to domestic helpers who listened to those who married locals and who said: WOW fight for your rights as a human person. Domestic helpers grabbed onto this and forgot that their contract clearly stated that employment will not lead to permanent residency. Thus the whole fake dream they came up with to live of HK welfare failed and now they are upset.. They were not realistic in their dreaming.
Dream realistically and then they may succeed.
If they had put as much effort into getting the right to live outside an employers home they may have won. HK people are generous and would have agreed to that. But they took the risk and played the game of chance and now end up with nothing. Too greedy.
canuckister
It's not the job of the CFA to compare national standards. They had one job and that was to interpret our Basic Law, which they have now **** up royally.
andreaswagner
Racism seems to be ingrained in the society here. Shame on HK
megafun
Recent comments in this paper regarding "TOP Judges" capable of guarding our judicial independence and whatever is shown here as total rubbish! As anyone can now see .....“With the court’s ruling...it gave its judicial seal to unfair treatment and the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong,” Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body
oxymoron19
Drop this political charade, the racist card and think rationally for once. Filipinos are extremely priviledged to work in HK. Given their Lavish salary, it's more than 3 times what they could earn as an average worker back home. Working as a domestic helper is a dream job for all blue collars and even white collars in their country. This is a fact. Without being grateful and be content of what they have, they exploit the legal system in HK. They wanted more. A permanent residency where they could compete financially and most likely send their families to reside here for a better living. This is greed!
In addition, given the poverty the citizens of the Phillipines has to endure, along with decades of corrupted presidents that drained their country's wealth and compounded by dire living conditions and political instability, it is natural that Filipinos wanted to flee. They see Hong Kong as a promise land, metaphorically like Jeuruselm to the Istreilalites. Remember these people are not refugees and they have a country of their own. Their exploitation of the law is a blatant invasion.
I feel so sad seeing this one domestic helper crying her lungs out on the news after hearing of the court verdict. Not that I have any sympathy for her cause, but rather her lack of shame by showing how desperate she was in ditching her own country. All they see is what they don't have but not what they have. We Hong Kongers have compassions for the needs but NOT for the wants.
anson
To those closest racists who have come out on the attack of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people,
Hong Kong and Hong Kong people are some of the kindest and gentlest people in the world. In contrast to the UK where it isn't safe for women to go out by themselves at night, where old people are forced to live separate from their families and where crimes against the person are considered as nothing special. Compare London to Hong Kong. Recently we were shocked to see a spate of murders over a few days. This is the norm in London and hardly raises an eyebrow. Hong Kong people have a great deal more respect for people than those in the UK do.
I am British (caucasian) and my wife is Chinese, the Westerners commenting here sicken me. They equally guilty of racism. In this case against Hong Kong Chinese. I have many friends who are British and have to bite my tongue whenever they started going on about 'them' and their supposed shortfalls as a people and civilization. 'Them' being HK Chinese. They behave this way because of their ignorance or the culture.
In Hong Kong Chinese culture we try to look after our elderly family members in the family home. We would like more time with our children but don't get 5 day weeks and reasonable hours. We employ FDH largely so that we can keep our family together and provide love and care for our elders. We can iiron, we can use a washing machine. We don't abandon our family members. When we agree to conditions of a contract we honour them.
ytrewq12345
Before we make flippant comments against these foreign helpers lets not forget that most of our grandparents and great grandparents were immigrants too, who came with nothing to make a better future for us and our families. We have reaped many benefits from foreign helpers who work long hours with little pay away from their families. They too are just trying to make a better future for their children.
santini
Here is a poll. How many people who agree with the ruling regarding Domestic Workers can actually iron a shirt or run a washing machine?
shafinhk
Unfortunately Hong Kong judges were not having any other choice, they were sitting under sharp sword, if they would have approved the residency they were aware that Government will by-pass them and will proceed to Beijing, as what the government did in the past. Having no choice and keeping the law and order in place and keeping the Hong Kong court's dignity they were left only once choice, kill the PR for the maids and close the chapter.
Any intelligent person having knowledge of Immigration matters can tell that reasons given by the court are frivolous and makes no sense, but when looking at impact in case of their favorable decision the impact was huge.
we must not forget that Hong Kong courts do keep in their mind "matter of public interest". although i am really unhappy with the decision but i don't feel shy to say that if i was a judge i would have made the same unjustified decision to save Hong Kong courts and public from Embarrassing.
blue
Wow I hope the SCMP fixes the totally inept comment module soon. Comments just mysteriously disappear after they are pushed off the first page. It has nothing to do with censorship either. It's just really bad programming and project management work.

"Change the residence status of FDH to "Ordinary residence". Then, as ordinary residents they can apply for permanent residency."

Except that FDH are restricted by legislation to be only from the Philippines and Indonesia. Trust me the Filipinos want it this way too, otherwise they'd have more competition!

Also regarding your other comment, of course HKers are descendants from economic refugees. But HK is now a developed economy that can no longer support economic refugees due to limited resources. Why is it that western countries don't want to easily give FDH permanent residency either. Are they racist too? It seems the only people who gain permanent residency in western countries are educated and highly skilled workers.

Also you claim some FDH have a college degree. Well then why are they applying to be FDH then? Why don't they apply under a regular work visa as a skilled worker instead so they can be classified as an ordinary resident?

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