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  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 3:14pm
NewsHong Kong

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

Mainly white people don't care whether domestic helpers get residency as they won't compete for jobs or housing with them. Foreigners are quite happy if HK waitresses get fired in Hong Kong island and Filipinos take over because they speak English and can do small talk with the patrons. In foreigners minds domestics winning is good for them as more English speaking people.
Why would a foreigner care if local waitresses get fired? They have low opinions of locals anyway. Foreigners always feel they are better than locals.
Here are some of my opinion:
1) They already knew that they will not be applicable to get the HK PR before they come;
2) I know many expats who would love to hire their mother or mother in law from China, Korea and other countries to come here as a helper. But it is not possible for them because they are not from Indonesia and Philippines. Thus in this case they actually have an exclusive right.
3) People dun realize that the $4000 HKD they are earning is spendable income because housing, food and insurance is arranged and more by the employer and many of them (the good ones) have part time jobs besides their fixed job. => Many HK people who work in restaurants or welcome supermarket just earn enough to pay their fixed expenses.
Also domestic helpers do not pay HK taxes or have to pay into a MPF accounts. Do not need to find a residence or pay for food. They get free medical and twice a year get paid home leave. Most have little work to do between 8 am and 4 m. They don't need to worry about electricity, water or gas bills. They don't need to pay transportation. They are treated like princesses while in Hong Kong. I am sure many people in cage homes or subsidized houses would love the privilage life that a domestic helper has. F they tire of their employer they just leave and turn around and sue them. There are 2 whole courts in HK just of maids suing employers.
They get to remain in HK when they sue and they always win because they have unlimited time to sue. They also live which Christian action etc during this time who arranges for them to do well paid illegal work on the side.
All this is well known and documented by the HK government.they will take advantage of HK generosity at every opportunity
"Probably SCMP server and tech are not up to speed. But this is annoying."
You claimed to be a tech director, but you kinda don't know what you are talking about. It has nothing to do with the server. I guess you could say the tech is not up to speed, but this is what a lay person would say.
It has everything to do with sloppy programming and poor project management. The comment system in SCMP is broken because it was coded badly and nobody cares enough to fix it.
I see similar problems in the glorious (to speakfreely anyway) USA. I use an app called SiriusXM and it's extremely broken and buggy. In comparison, HK's commercial radio app works perfectly and is free. I have to pay 100 HK a month for Sirius XM which is a US based company.
Stop shitting all over HK speakfreely. If you're so bitter and don't even have a SAR passport, then go live in the US. You always seem to gloat how many better it is than HK.
Of course it is none. Only western countries with lots of space for housing like Canada offer permanent residency. Canada also looks down Hong Kong for now. But HK needed to say no as there is no space. Also it was told to them at the beginning it was a never!
it was a pipe dream in the 1st plc!!!! no country or city would want to turn itself into a maid city!!! otherwise why would ppl bother to get a college degree n work experience to apply for permanent residency? just be a maid would do :) rolled eyes!!!
Since when did Hong Kong become an independent country?
What a terrible, lost opportunity for HK society to achieve a greater level of social equality and justice.
Racism in Hong Kong is always there.
Geoffrey Ma said the government didn't have to ask Beijing, but why should they want to? Clearly Beijing is speaking through Geoffrey Ma, even if he is wearing fancy dress and the SCMP is lying about "independence" of the judiciary.
An independent judiciary respects minority rights. The Hong Kong judiciary practices China rule of law: practical, functional, until the right decision is not the useful decision.
Our great grandparents or grandprents did not come to Hong Kong on a contract; they came for different reasons. Morever Hong Kong once belonged to China, of course it is now back to China since the handover. Please be fair. The foreign helpers came on a 2-years contract, recruited by private families to work in their home. Hong Kong has already incurred money on this law case, such money in fact could be better used for much needed cause. I cannot imagine other countries that employ FDH would even entertain the case in the first instance.




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