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  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 11:43pm
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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
Westerners have to show a level of education, they have to show they are doing a job not done locally and they need to show they can support themselves. Thus adding to the community.
Domestic helpers do not need to show any of this. They just need to agree to do menial tasks like childcare, laundry and cook dinner.
Also be honest most ignore the kids, cook the dinner in the morning and sit on their phones and laptops all day. They are ok at laundry ( will give them that much).
Local part time helpers are much much better.
HK should change the rules and promote mainland maids in HK. Would fit in much better.
qiaohan
Foreign professionals are OK but not domestic helpers? Maids provide a useful service or they wouldn't be here. Why are westerners thought to be better? They both contribute to the well-being of HK in different ways.
Pure racism.
santini
I agree with qiaohan and so do many Westerns interviewed in the media.
santini
Although I agree with many items written by our friends in the comment-ariate, I have to say that many of these propositions miss the real point in all this. The people who come to this city ADD to the overall strength of it. This is true regardless of whether they be Philippines maids who have been here for only a few years or poor labourers from Guangdong who arrived 100 years ago. Very FEW among us can claim "native" status here. Diversity and tolerance are the real hallmarks of a "World City" and separate first tier cities like London and New York from all the rest. If these women really want to stay here after 7 years of ironing shirts and scrubbing the floor even after low pay and quiet contempt from their "Madames" and "Mrs." then they will move Heaven and Earth for Hong Kong and should be seen as real assets to Brand Hong Kong.
blue
"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.
sarah.graham
Hi - we're in touch with SpeakFreely and are looking into the issue which has today been reported. Please bear with us while we try to determine what the issue is. Thanks, SCMP.com management.
Shadow
SAR PR cant get and after years and years people cant get SAR passport and naturalization. is it also legal ?
as "THENEXT' said singapore not give PR to domestic helpers but singapore/canada/europe will not ask people to wait years and years for passport once approved for PR.
this dicrimination/racist immigration/ only and only in SAR.
any one will speak for this cruel immigration behavior? after all legal rights fulfill still years and years to get application results why ?
blue
For starters Canada/europe require you to wait for years just to obtain residency. In HK the process is brisk.
Unlike many countries it's also very simple to obtain PR in Hong Kong.
Finally naturalization IS an option in HK. I am in the process of applying for it now.
HK immigration dept is not racist. Compared to many other immigration departments all around the world, I find them quite reasonable actually.
rease.92
This RoA issue for FDH is not an issue of the Immigration department. I agree, they are very efficient, but getting a visa for England was even quicker.
This RoA issue for FDH has to do with chinese xenophobia. Especially seen on the mainland. If you are a Chinese female it could happen that old people spit out in front of you if you have a foreign husband. Even more so, if that husband has a dark skin.
And FDH have a darker skin than Chinese. So they are looked down upon.
Philippinos never had any hope that this court case had a good ending for them. My filipino friend tells me for 20 years now: "Never trust a Chinese". (I have a few close chinese friends I trust, though)
Anyway, most opposition to new immigrants comes from recent immigrants.
And THAT is the same all over the world.
99% of Hong Kong's population are immigrants or descendents from immigrants.
And all came for better job opportunities, better pay, better future.
Let's not forget that.
Shadow
uk/usa/europe/newzealand/ these all i am very clear their system
3 years for PR and + 2 years more and you will have your passport in hand .
Sar after continous 7 years you can make application for elible or not then may b it takes you more than a year to recieve your right of abode id card then passports you never know how many years more no system no check and balance no accountability in sar.
so SAR is simple or others?

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